Oregon defensive tackle Ngata to enter NFL draft

Updated: January 6, 2006, 10:49 PM ET
Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said Friday he will leave school early to enter the NFL draft.

Ngata, a 6-foot-5, 380-pound junior who was named to the Associated Press All-America first team, said financial concerns and his mother's poor health led him to the decision.

"I just want to help my family out," Ngata said. "My mom's going to be in and out of the hospital."

Ngata ranked sixth for the Ducks this season in tackles with 61, 32 unassisted. He had a single-game high 11 tackles against California.

Oregon finished 10-2 this season, with a regular season loss to USC and a 17-14 loss to Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl. The Ducks finished the season ranked No. 12.

Ngata was the Pacific-10 Conference's co-defensive player of the year and he was named the Ducks' MVP, becoming the team's first defensive lineman in 18 years to earn the honor.

He also was one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy for the nation's top lineman. Minnesota center Greg Eslinger won the award.

While he hasn't hired an agent, Ngata understood from an NFL report that at worst he would go in the mid-second round of the draft, slated for April 29-30 in New York.

He said he was interviewing agents.

Ngata, who was speaking by telephone from his home in Utah, said his mother has kidney problems and is facing dialysis. Olga Ngata had surgery "a couple of days ago," he said.

Olga Ngata was in the hospital in Los Angeles when Ngata was playing the Holiday Bowl Dec. 19.

"I was thinking about her that week," he said.

Ngata took a low block during the loss to Oklahoma and tweaked his right knee. An MRI this week showed a sprain and a bone bruise.

Ngata said if he had torn a ligament, he likely would have returned to Oregon for his senior year. He said he made the final decision on Thursday at home in Salt Lake City,

Ngata set an Oregon record with seven blocked kicks over his career. He becomes Oregon's fifth player ever to leave school early to enter the NFL draft, joining defensive back Kenny Wheaton (1997), running back Onterrio Smith (2003), tight end George Wrighster (2003) and defensive tackle Igor Olshansky (2004).

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press