- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2009

True to his personality, Darrius Heyward-Bey didn’t want to get into specifics Wednesday. He didn’t want to boast about a projected round evaluation, mention how many credits he needed to complete his degree or talk about much else.

He just wanted to say he’s leaving Maryland a year early.

The charismatic wide receiver said he decided Friday or Saturday to depart for the NFL after playing three seasons with the Terrapins.

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

The speedy Heyward-Bey finished second in school history in receiving yards (2,089) and third in both receptions (138) and touchdown catches (13). He led Maryland in receiving yards in each of the previous three seasons.

As a junior he was not quite as prolific as expected, catching 42 passes for 609 yards, both down from his career highs set a year earlier. He did haul in five touchdown receptions and ran for another score this season as the Terps went 8-5 and won the Humanitarian Bowl.

Heyward-Bey said he has not selected an agent or a place to train heading into next month’s combine or April’s NFL Draft. He won’t take any spring classes in College Park, though he promised he would “definitely graduate later on in the next couple offseasons.”

“I’m just being normal citizen at the moment,” Heyward-Bey said.

Except for the matter of trying to become a professional standout.

Heyward-Bey long resisted specific NFL talk, preferring not to take attention away from Maryland’s season. His mother and aunt helped him come to his decision, as did coach Ralph Friedgen. Heyward-Bey and Friedgen met at Friedgen’s home in the last week for three or four hours to discuss the decision.

Ultimately, Friedgen said Heyward-Bey had his blessing to leave early. The wideout is the seventh player to forgo eligibility in Friedgen’s tenure, joining fullback James Lynch (2003), defensive tackle Randy Starks (2004), linebacker Shawne Merriman (2005), tight end Vernon Davis (2006), offensive tackle Jared Gaither (2007) and linebacker Erin Henderson (2008).

“For the number of years Darrius has played, his [best] game is all ahead of him,” Friedgen said. “He’s blessed with tremendous work ethic. He’ll be a positive influence in the locker room. The intangibles are off the charts as far as I’m concerned.”

Heyward-Bey’s departure, combined with the graduation of Danny Oquendo and Dan Gronkowski, means Maryland will be down its top three pass-catchers next season. But Torrey Smith emerged as a reliable option as a redshirt freshman, and both Adrian Cannon and Ronnie Tyler scored in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Heyward-Bey, who improved his route-running, technique and understanding of the game after arriving in College Park in 2005 as a raw track star accustomed to outrunning defensive backs, joins a wide receiver class that already includes Rutgers’ Kenny Britt and North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks. Virginia’s Kevin Ogletree also declared for the draft yesterday.

Several other stars, including Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, Florida’s Percy Harvin and Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin, also could turn pro before next Thursday’s deadline. But Heyward-Bey said who else left school was not a consideration when he decided to chase his NFL dream.

“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.”

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