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Thursday, February 5, 2004
WR expected to be a top pick

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Heisman Trophy runner-up Larry Fitzgerald, the Pittsburgh sophomore who set several NCAA receiving records in his two college seasons, was declared eligible Thursday for the NFL draft.

The NFL's ruling came on the same day a federal judge opened the door for running back Maurice Clarett to also turn pro despite playing only one college season.

Under league rules, a player must be in college for three NFL seasons before he can be drafted. Fitzgerald left the Academy of Holy Angels in Minneapolis, Minn., midway through his senior year in 2001 and transferred to Valley Forge (Pa.) Military Academy to boost his grades for college.

After spending nearly 1½ academic years there, Fitzgerald signed with Pittsburgh and immediately became the most productive receiver in school history. He owns NCAA records for games with a consecutive touchdown pass (18) and most receiving touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore (34).

The NFL determined Fitzgerald was eligible because he would have graduated from his Minneapolis high school in 2001 had he not transferred and is three years past his senior year of high school.

Fitzgerald won the Biletnikoff Trophy as college football's top receiver last season and the Walter Camp Award as the nation's best player. He was a close runner-up to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White for the Heisman Trophy, nearly becoming the first sophomore to win the award.

Fitzgerald could not be immediately reached for comment, but his father, Larry Sr., said, "We choose to let them (the NFL) do what they do, and then we'll do what we do."