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Missouri DE Aldon Smith declares for NFL draft

Standout Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith will enter the NFL draft.

Smith, a redshirt sophomore from Raytown, Mo., set a school single-season record with 11 1/2 sacks his freshman season and was Big 12 Conference defensive freshman and newcomer of the year. Last season, he missed three games with a broken leg and had 5 1/2 sacks along with 48 tackles, 10 of them for loss.

"I'd like to thank everyone at Mizzou for supporting me," Smith said in a statement. "The coaches, our fans and alumni, everyone has been great, and they've definitely helped me get to this point. It's been my dream for as long as I can remember to play in the NFL, so this is something I'm really excited for."

Like quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who made himself available for the NFL draft on Monday, Smith will forgo his final two seasons of college eligibility.

Smith was among at least four Missouri players who sought evaluations from the NFL to help decide whether to declare. Defensive end Jacquies Smith and tight end Michael Egnew also were evaluated.

Coach Gary Pinkel called Smith "one of the most gifted athletes in the country at his position."

"We'd love to have the chance to coach him longer, but we're 100 percent behind him and supportive with this decision," Pinkel said.

Missouri has had 15 players drafted the last six years, including six last year.

Gabbert's prospects were likely enhanced when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, considered the likely No. 1 pick in the draft, announced Thursday that he'd stay in college to earn a degree in architectural design.