CHAPEL HILL North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron will skip his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL draft, Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora announced Monday.
By making the announcement now, Ebron will be able to participate in Saturdays senior day ceremony before UNC hosts No. 24 Duke.
Im excited for him and his future, and I think this was a good decision by him and his family, Fedora said. I fully support it. Well be sad to see him go but excited, also, for his future.
Ebron leads the Tar Heels with 50 receptions for 774 yards and three touchdowns. His career day came on a Thursday night in front of a national audience against Miami, when he caught eight passes for 199 yards and a score, setting a record for a UNC tight end.
After that Oct.17 loss to the Hurricanes, Ebrons teammates were expecting him to go pro sooner rather than later, he said.
Thats when 95 percent of Carolina football knew, Ebron said. Theyve been raving about it more than me. Im pretty sure they already knew it was going to happen and planned for it to happen.
Ebron said he made his final decision Sunday night after sitting down with his mother, Gina, and Fedora. He made the decision now primarily for two reasons, he said: to relieve stress and so his mom could experience the senior day ceremony.
My mom plays a role in every decision I make in life, he said. Shes the reason why Im here, shes the reason I decided to declare for the draft, shes the reason that I play football, and shes the reason that I was born.
As for Fedora, Ebron said he considers their relationship more like father-son than coach-player. He didnt ask him to stay, Ebron said, but told him he would support him in whatever decision he made.
Im pretty sure deep down inside his curls he wanted to say something about me sticking around, but he didnt, Ebron said. I know that he has my back on whatever me and my mom decide.
As for where he expects to be drafted, Ebron smiled and said, hopefully very high.
That should be the case, as he is ranked as the No.12 overall player on ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kipers Big Board. ESPNs Todd McShay ranks him No.14 overall, and both have him listed as the top tight end in the draft.