COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Defensive end Vernon Gholston, who helped lead Ohio State to the BCS title game, is leaving early for the NFL.
The Big Ten defensive lineman of the year and second-team All-American threw his name into the draft Friday, along with Louisville linebacker Lamar Myles and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, who joins several other top tailbacks to declare early.
``As a son and as a man, it is my duty to serve and support my family to the best of my abilities,'' Gholston said in a statement. ``My childhood dream was, and still is, to one day be fortunate enough to do just that. I feel that time has come.''
Many draft experts project Gholston as a first- or second-round selection, after surpassing Mike Vrabel's single-season school record with 14 sacks.
The Buckeyes' chances of reaching a third consecutive title game may have taken a hit when Gholston announced his decision, but coach Jim Tressel did get some good news when receiver Brian Robiskie and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said they would return to Columbus.
Stewart, the bruising 5-foot-10, 230-pound junior from Oregon, ran for a school-record 1,722 yards in leading the Ducks to a 9-4 record last season. He scored 11 touchdowns on the ground and caught two touchdown passes.
``Up until the beginning of this week, that's the only time I've really been able to sit down and actually think about what I wanted to do,'' said Stewart, who made the choice Thursday night.
Stewart made a big statement with 253 yards rushing in Oregon's 56-21 victory over South Florida in the Sun Bowl, which could give him a boost in a crowded running back class that already includes Texas' Jamaal Charles, Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall, Clemson's James Davis, Michigan's Mike Hart, Tulane's Mike Forte, Rutgers' Ray Rice and Central Florida's Kevin Smith.
The list could get even longer if Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Felix Jones (Arkansas) and Steve Slaton (West Virginia) forgo their senior seasons.
``To be honest with you, it came down to my faith,'' Stewart said of his decision. ``It's a crapshoot, nothing is set in stone.''
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti believes Stewart will go in the first round of the draft, which will take place April 26-27 in New York.
``I know this wasn't an easy decision for him but he feels in his heart that this is what he wants,'' Bellotti said. ``I assured him that we would support whatever conclusion he came to.''
Myles joined Louisville receiver Mario Urrutia in declaring early entry for the draft, after leading the disappointing Cardinals with 128 tackles last season.
``The time is right for me to move on,'' Myles said. ``The coaching staff helped me improve as a player and I look forward to competing in the NFL.''
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