UNC wideout Nicks to enter draft

Updated: January 5, 2009, 4:25 PM ET
By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

Nicks' decision, announced by the university Monday, comes as little surprise; he wowed NFL scouts with a record-setting season that was highlighted by his behind-the-back, highlight-reel catch in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeJunior Hakeem Nicks set a Tar Heels bowl record with 217 receiving yards in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

In his final performance, Nicks caught eight passes for a UNC bowl-record 217 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-30 loss to West Virginia.

"He was a gamer," coach Butch Davis said on a teleconference with reporters. "The bigger the stakes, the better he played. We were very fortunate to have had him for the three years and certainly wish him the very best of luck. It's something we hope happens for a lot of our kids in the future."

According to Nicks, he is projected to be an early second-round pick by the NFL draft advisory board, and Davis said the general consensus from everyone he spoke to was that Nicks would be chosen on the first day. Nicks said he is on track to graduate, but will take the semester off to train for the NFL's scouting combine in February.

"I clearly think that most everybody feels pretty confident he's probably going to have a great chance to be a first-day draft selection," said Davis, who spent 10 years in the NFL with Dallas and Cleveland, and reached out to GMs and assistants on Nicks' behalf.

Nicks, who moved into the spotlight in place of injured record-setter Brandon Tate, set UNC single-season records in 2008 for receiving yards (1,222) and touchdowns (12). He finished his career having set 14 school records.

Nicks said he spoke with Davis about his decision after the bowl game, and that he valued Davis' NFL experience and contacts.

Nicks said he didn't decide until after the bowl game.

"I was still in the process of praying about it and thinking about it and still had to talk with coach Davis," Nicks said. "I was just focused on playing in the bowl game and being with my teammates."

Nicks set school records for career receptions (181), career receiving yards (2,580) and career touchdowns (21). He is the only player in UNC history with more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Nicks surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark five times in 2008 and 10 times in his career, both UNC records. He led the ACC and ranks 12th in the country with 94.0 yards per game.

The only three-year player in ACC history with more career receiving yards than Nicks is former Georgia Tech All-American and 2007 NFL first-round pick Calvin Johnson.

Heather Dinich covers ACC football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.