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Crowder chooses NFL

Calling it a much tougher decision than he had expected, Florida linebacker Channing Crowder said Wednesday he will forego his final two years of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.

Crowder is the second Florida player to declare early for the draft, joining junior running back Ciatrick Fason who announced he was leaving two weeks ago.

"It was a tough decision to make, but it was best for me and my family to go," Crowder said. "It was a lot harder (decision) than I thought. I started thinking about how great they are going to be next year. I met with coach (Urban) Meyer a bunch of times and he said they are going to be a great team. So it was a lot tougher than I thought."

A 6-foot-3, 245-pound sophomore, Crowder is eligible for the draft because he is three years removed from high school. He finishes his career at Florida with 179 tackles, three fumble recoveries and one interception. This season, he played in just nine games because of a foot injury sustained Oct. 30 against Georgia but still finished third on the team in tackles (73). Last year, he led the nation in tackles by a freshman with 106 and was named the Sporting News SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year.

Crowder, 21, said he has been pondering leaving early since midseason but put the decision on the back burner. He said during last week's Peach Bowl he would make a final decision based on information he received this week from the NFL. Although he would not say where the NFL projected he could be drafted, he said the news was "good."

"I haven't heard anything lower than the first day, one through three (rounds)," Crowder said. "I haven't heard anything, really less than mid second."

When he returns home to Atlanta at the end of the week, Crowder says he and his mother will interview candidates for an agent and he'll search for a trainer to get him ready for the NFL combine. The son of former Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Randy Crowder was a staunch supporter of fired Florida coach Ron Zook but said the coaching change didn't factor heavily in his decision.

"I like coach Meyer, he's a great guy and I've met his family," Crowder said. "He's a great coach; that had nothing to do with it. It wasn't a coaching decision. It was what was best for my family."

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