Walker won't return to ND for 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.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press