NC State's Williams to enter NFL draft

Updated: January 3, 2006, 3:45 PM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Defensive end Mario Williams helped North Carolina State complete its turnaround with a convincing bowl victory, then decided there was nothing left to prove.

The 6-foot-7, 290-pounder announced Tuesday he will give up his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft following a season in which he led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 14½ sacks.

"I really have to face the fact that I'm leaving a great family here," Williams said during a news conference attended by coach Chuck Amato. "I'm going to be in the real world now."

Some draft analysts project him as a possible top-10 pick. Amato believes Williams will succeed in the NFL, and that's partly why he gave his full blessing to the early departure.

During their discussions before a 14-0 victory over South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Amato made sure Williams knew how he felt.

"I tell it like it is," Amato said. "Nobody can make that decision except the man himself. He's the one that's got to make it, and don't look back. Don't you dare look back."

Williams had two sacks to help the Wolfpack beat the Bulls, giving him a school-record 25½ for his career. He has 52 tackles for a loss in his three years, another N.C. State record. His play helped the Wolfpack rebound from a 2-4 start to finish at 7-5 with victories in five of their last six games.

He started the season with only one sack through the first five games. He was not among the list of finalists for the Lombardi Award, which is given to the nation's top college lineman or linebacker.

Perhaps the snub was one of the factors behind his stellar play down the stretch, when the Wolfpack won five of their final six games. Williams had 13½ sacks during that span, including four in a victory over Maryland that made N.C. State bowl eligible.

"First of all, it was really important for me to try to contribute to help the team win games," he said. "If you look at stats, I probably had better stats in half a season than most people did in a whole year. I'm not really worried about that."

Williams, a sports management major, plans to complete his degree. He said he is only one semester and an internship short of finishing his work.

"As a parent and as a coach, you always hate to see an athlete leave any place before they get an education, before they get their diploma," Amato said. "That being said, I am 100 percent supportive of this young man's decision, in anything he does."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press