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U.Va. defensive end Eli Harold to enter NFL draft
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University of Virginia defensive end Eli Harold bypassed traditional media to announce he was ending his college career.
 

By Larry Rubama
The Virginian-Pilot

University of Virginia defensive end Eli Harold bypassed traditional media to announce he was ending his college career.

Instead, he took to Twitter on Wednesday to break the news that he was skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

"When I first tweeted it, my heart dropped because I knew there was no turning back now," said Harold, an Ocean Lakes High School grad. "I had my mind made up, but actually doing it and letting folks know what was going on was stunning."

Harold tweeted the news to his more than 28,000 followers: "To all UVA Fans, my family, and my close friends and teammates it's been a great ride. I have decided to enter the NFL Draft."

Harold, 20, is projected as a potential second-day draft pick. ESPN's Mel Kiper rates him the No. 6 defensive end in the draft.

Harold, 6 foot 4 and 250 pounds, started the past two seasons at Virginia and finished his career with 141 tackles, 36-1/2 for loss, and 17-1/2 sacks.

"I really felt like I was ready," Harold said. "And I thought why go back and risk getting hurt or tearing something. That was my biggest fear."

The school said Cavaliers coach Mike London was on a recruiting trip and not immediately available for comment. Harold was one of the first top prospects London landed.

Harold's brother and guardian, Walter Ray Harold, said it wasn't an easy decision.

"It was a family decision, but ultimately it lies on him," he said. "And at the end of the day, he felt that this was best for him. He wants to take his talents to the next level and see what he can do. I'm excited for him."

On Wednesday night, Harold and his brother attended the Dudley/Lanier Award banquet in Richmond, where Harold received the Touchdown Club of Richmond Defensive Lineman of the Year award.

Harold won't be the only member of his family preparing for the NFL. His nephew, Sage Harold, a lineman who starred at Ocean Lakes and James Madison, also is getting ready for the draft.

Walter Ray Harold said he's in the process of finding an agent to represent both.

"I've interviewed several people and now we're in the final interviewing stages," he said. "We've got a couple of agencies coming in this weekend and we're going to choose an agent to represent us next week."

Eli said being able to share this special time with Sage, who is Walter Ray's son, also was important.

"Since we were young, we've always called each other brothers," he said. "And it had a lot to do with my decision being able to go through the same process together.

"I'm just so ready to start training and to compete against the best guys in the country. I just want to show the world what I can do."

Harold said he's received nothing but positive feedback after his tweet. Family, fans, fellow students and childhood friends responded.

"A lot of people commented on it and retweeted it for me," he said. "It was a very incredible moment. My Twitter is still blowing up."

Larry Rubama, 757-446-2273, larry.rubama@pilotonline.com Twitter @LHRubama

 
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