Tennessee linebacker Mayo will enter the NFL draft

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee junior linebacker Jerod Mayo, whose 140 total tackles led the SEC this season, has decided to enter the upcoming NFL draft.

"My experience here at the University of Tennessee has been a
roller-coaster ride," Mayo told The Associated Press. "I wouldn't change
anything if I could do it all over again.

"I feel like I'm in a blessed and fortunate situation right now
just to have the opportunity to make this decision whether to leave
or to stay."

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Mayo informed Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and defensive coordinator John Chavis of his decision on Tuesday.

"He feels like he's done everything he can do here and has done everything we've asked of him and more," Chavis said. "We'd love to have him back. But he feels like the time is right to go, and we support him 100 percent. He's one of the best I've ever coached."

Mayo, who's already earned his undergraduate degree at Tennessee, was a consensus All-SEC selection and spearheaded the Vols' strong close to the season when they won six of their last seven games. He had 89 tackles in his last seven games, including 62 in his last four.

"Jerod has been a great leader for our football team and
obviously a great player ... an outstanding student and just a
wonderful person to have in our program,"
Fulmer said. "He'll be very difficult to replace, no doubt about

An outside linebacker during the first part of his career, Mayo shifted over to middle linebacker this season. This was also the first season in which he was able to make it through without injury, something that factored into his decision to turn pro.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 15.

Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Chris at espnclow@aol.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.