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Walker won't return to ND for senior season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame tailback Darius Walker, on
pace to become Notre Dame's career rushing leader, will enter the
NFL draft and skip his senior season.

Walker said Thursday he was fulfilling a lifelong dream.

"I just really feel like it's right for me," he said. "I
wrote down the pros and cons and feel like it's the right thing for
me to do at this time."

Walker, who has run for 3,249 yards in three seasons, was on
pace to break the school record of 4,318 career rushing yards set
by Autry Denson from 1995-98. He also had 816 receiving yards, and
a school record 109 career catches by a back.

Walker had until Monday to declare for the NFL draft and his
decision caught many by surprise.

Coach Charlie Weis said he was informed of Walker's decision on
Tuesday.

"He guaranteed me that he would graduate from Notre Dame in the
near future," he said in a written statement. "Although
disappointed, we wish him nothing but the best."

Walker set the freshman rushing record with 786 yards in 2004.
He rushed for 1,196 yards as a sophomore and 1,267 yards this past
season.

His best game may have been his last, when he rushed for 128
yards on 22 carries against LSU in the Sugar Bowl, including 125
yards in the first half.

He is the second player in as many years to leave Notre Dame
with a year of eligibility left. Tight end Anthony Fasano left last
year and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round. But
Fasano was a senior with a fifth year of eligibility left.

Walker is the first junior to leave Notre Dame since cornerback
Bobby Taylor left after the 1994 season. He was projected to be
picked in the first round, but was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles
in the middle of the second round.

Weis also announced that nine players with another year of
eligibility have asked permission from the school to return,
including safety Tom Zbikowski, linebacker Travis Thomas, tight end
John Carlson, center John Sullivan and defensive end Trevor Laws.