Heisman candidate to enter '04 NFL draft

Updated: December 27, 2003, 3:06 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones, a Doak Walker Award finalist and Heisman Trophy candidate, will forego his senior season and declare himself eligible for the 2004 NFL draft, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Gene Wojciechowski.

Kevin Jones
AP PhotoKevin Jones rushed for a Hokies' record 1,494 yards this season.
"He's coming out," Thomas Jones, Kevin's father, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press from his Chester, Pa., home. Kevin Jones did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone, but Virginia Tech called a news conference for Wednesday for the formal announcement.

Jones' last game will be the Insight Bowl vs. Cal on Dec. 26.

Running backs coach Billy Hite said Jones' stature made his decision very easy.

"I told him going into the season that if he was going to be a number one draft pick, he needed to go," Hite said in an interview from his home, adding that he met with Jones and head coach Frank Beamer for several hours Monday and Tuesday. "It's a no-brainer."

Jones rushed for a Hokies-record 1,494 yards and had eight 100 yards-rushing games, another school record. He also scored 20 touchdowns this season.

"Next year could be even better, but I'd like him to take it to the next level and get better, and that's what he's going to do," Thomas Jones said, adding that the decision is the product of discussions that have been evolving throughout the season.

"At one point during the season we were saying top 10. If not that, then come on back," Thomas Jones said. "Then you start really thinking about it and the chance of being a first-round draft pick is a great honor anywhere. When that's on the table with the chance of being injured, you just can't pass that by. It's time to move on."

A No. 1 prep prospect when he signed with the Hokies in 2001, Jones was Big East Rookie of the Year in 2001 and is third all-time at Virginia Tech with 3,322 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns.

Jones, 6 feet, 221 pounds, is projected as a first-round pick in April's NFL draft, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

"He's a big back with game-breaking speed," Kiper said. "Jones is a tremendous natural athlete with great feet and the ability to stop on a dime and change direction. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and will also assist with his blocking abilities, making him a very complete player. "

Jones said late in the season that he was unsure what he would do and wanted to wait until after the bowl game to decide, but his father said he's been pretty certain his son would make himself available for the draft since the middle of the season. "We started getting some pretty good feedback from sources we've got," he said. " 'Continue to do this, continue to do that and things are going to look right.'

"It's the fruit of all his labor."

Earlier this season, Temple coach Bobby Wallace said he recruited Bo Jackson and played against Herschel Walker and that Jones fit into the same lofty category.

"He's got the combination of size, strength, feet, cutback ability and pure speed," Wallace said. "You really have to defend the whole field with him and not overpursue, but when you can't overpursue, how do you catch him because he's so fast?"

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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