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Staley leaving BYU for NFL

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PROVO — Luke Staley, the most decorated running back in BYU history, is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft, sources at the school said Wednesday morning.

An official announcement was expected by Staley at an afternoon press conference Wednesday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

In 2001, the All-America tailback led the nation in scoring and set single-season school records for rushing yardage (1,582) and touchdowns (28). That was before Staley suffered a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments during what turned out to be his final game as a Cougar, a 41-38 win at Mississippi State on Dec. 1. Days later, he won the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.

Due to ankle surgery, Staley will not participate in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in late February. The draft will be held April 20-21.

During the season, Staley said publicly he would return for his senior campaign and BYU had planned to promote him for next year's Heisman Trophy. The risk of more injuries might have played a role in his decision to forgo his final year of eligibility.

Staley is the fourth Cougar football player to leave school early for the draft in recent years. Offensive lineman John Tait was selected in the first round (No. 14 overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999. Offensive lineman Eric Bateman was taken in the fifth round by the New York Jets in 1998, and quarterback John Walsh was picked in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1995.

E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com