Tar Heels’ Nicks to enter NFL draft

Published 8:12 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

By By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
Hakeem Nicks decided his dominating performance in North Carolina’s bowl game was the best way to end a college career.
The junior said Monday he plans to skip his final season and enter the NFL draft after setting 14 school receiving records. Nicks leaves Chapel Hill as the program’s all-time leader in catches, yardage and touchdown receptions.
In his last game, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior had eight catches for a school bowl-record 217 yards and three touchdowns in the Meineke Bowl loss to West Virginia.
Nicks is the first Tar Heel underclassman to enter the draft since Julius Peppers left as a junior after the 2001 season.
Davis said he reached out to management and coaching contacts he had in the NFL for input as to where Nicks might be drafted. Nicks said he came away feeling pretty confident he’d be a second-round pick even before the bowl game, while Davis said Nicks was in good position to be a first-day draft choice.
Nicks said he didn’t decide until after the bowl game.
Nicks set school single-season records this year with an Atlantic Coast Conference-leading 1,222 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns, and had five 100-yard games to earn all-ACC honors. Against the Mountaineers, he had TD catches of 73, 66 and 25 yards in the first half and had a circus catch in which he controlled the ball with one hand as it slipped behind his back before bringing it around the other side of his body for the reception.
Nicks’ departure, however, will further deplete North Carolina’s receiving corps next year. Second-leading receiver Brooks Foster was a senior, as was big-play threat Brandon Tate — who was lost to a midseason knee injury.
Tailback Shaun Draughn is the leading returning receiver with 16 catches for 81 yards. Former running back Greg Little, who moved back to receiver with Draughn’s emergence, is the leading returning wideout with 11 catches for 146 yards.