MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -West Virginia running back Steve Slaton is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
``I called the NFL about two weeks ago, and they told me that I was assessed as a second-round selection,'' Slaton said Sunday in a joint statement with new Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart.
In the school-issued statement, Stewart said his conversation with Slaton was ``very private and heart-warming,'' and will remain private.
``I believe every student athlete, male or female, should pursue, exhaust and complete their eligibility and academic requirements for graduation at their institution. With that being said, if someone can be financially secure with a large signing bonus, I understand that decision,'' Stewart said.
Stewart added that the average career of an NFL player is 3.2 years, and that he supports all player decisions 100 percent.
Slaton said that he felt very good about his chances to do well in the NFL.
``I am as versatile a running back as there is in the draft. There are a lot of running backs going out early, but I believe I have the speed and the ability to get drafted higher than the level where I am projected,'' Slaton said.
Slaton said that he loved his time as a Mountaineer.
``There wasn't a place that I would rather be because my teammates, coaches and fans have always supported me,'' he said. ``It was a great feeling knowing that the fans supported me whether we won or even when we lost.
``We won a lot of games during my time here at West Virginia, and I have made a lot of great friends and have a lot of good memories. I wish the players and coaches nothing but the best in the future.''
After setting West Virginia's school record with 1,733 yards rushing last season, Slaton ran for 1,051 yards this season to surpass 1,000 for the third straight time. Slaton also had 26 catches for 350 yards.
Slaton will leave for Scottsdale, Ariz., this week to train and will remain there until the draft.

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