The Washington Times - January 7, 2009, 05:31PM

I didn’t know if Darrius Heyward-Bey would turn pro. Nearly everyone else was much more certain, and maybe that just indicates a certain amount of caution on my end.

But if there’s one thing I would have guessed – and it turned out to be a correct guess – is that if he did leave Maryland, he wouldn’t offer up any more information than was necessary.

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That’s just the savvy way Heyward-Bey operates. He didn’t reveal the draft grade he received, didn’t reveal how many credits he needed to graduate, didn’t reveal where he would be training in the coming months (that is still being decided).

He did mention that Kansas City Chiefs wideout Devard Darling, a longtime family friend, had some input as he went through the process.  But in general, the feedback he received was “positive.”

“That made me feel good,” Heyward-Bey said. “It was nothing too crazy or too wild. If it wasn’t positive, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

So who knows where Heyward-Bey was told he would go. Chances are, “positive” consititutes the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, which is pretty good.

He leaves with coach Ralph Friedgen’s blessing, and while Friedgen offered up his usual spiel about how it is unfair for guys to make this decision now when it will be more than three months before they find out if it was the right now, he didn’t sound nearly as cautious as he did at this time last year when linebacker Erin Henderson departed.

This is, amazingly enough, the seventh straight season Maryland has lost a player a year early. There was fullback James Lynch (undrafted), defensive tackle Randy Starks (third round), linebacker Shawne Merriman (first round), tight end Vernon Davis (first round), tackle Jared Gaither (supplemental draft) and Henderson (undrafted) the last six years.

Heyward-Bey will be part of an increasingly crammed class for receivers, but seems more concerned with improving his own weaknesses than worrying about who else will join him on the draft board in April.

“It’s just the fact the opportunity was there,” Heyward-Bey said. “The opportunity might never be there again. You never know. The door was open and I decided to take that chance. There weren’t too many cons. I understand I have things to work on, and everybody has that going into the draft.”

Patrick Stevens