Once Patrick Peterson learned he was widely projected to be a top-five selection in this spring's NFL draft, the star LSU cornerback figured this was the year he had to turn pro.
"I pretty much achieved all my goals here," said Peterson, who won the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back and the Bednarik Award as the top defender in college football. "I believe it just was the right time to go."
Even coach Les Miles agreed.
"This is a decision that Patrick Peterson and his family made independent of me, but I want to say simply that I agree with it completely," Miles said.
Miles said Peterson has performed so well both as a cornerback and kick and punt returner that he has put himself in a "draft position that is really too good to forgo."
Peterson wore a gold LSU pin on the lapel of his gray suit at his announcement on Monday and spoke passionately about his love for the Tigers and his playing days in the stadium known as Death Valley, which called "the best stadium I've ever, ever been part of."
"I'd like to thank the wonderful fans at LSU," he said. "There is no place in America that has the fans and student body that we have."
There were no tears and no signs of regret about his decision to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Peterson, who also was the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year for 2010, was widely expected to make his junior season his last in college.
"Leaving this place with the ability that I have was just a no-brainer for me," he said.
The 6-foot-1, 222-pound junior routinely covered opponents' top receivers one-on-one. He had four interceptions and returned two punts for touchdowns this season.
"The ability for him to make good plays on special teams should definitely increase his draft position," Miles said.
For his career, Peterson played in 39 games, starting 30 times. He was credited with 135 tackles, 22 pass breakups and seven interceptions on defense. As a return specialist, he finished with 418 punt returns yards and two touchdowns to go with 932 kickoff return yards.
Peterson said he does not have an agent but expects to start interviewing them next week. He also said he will soon start training for the NFL scouting combine with the hope of running the 40-yard dash in 4.2 seconds.
"My goal is to be the highest defensive player and the highest cornerback taken," Peterson said. "I have to go to this combine and perform well and hopefully I can be a No. 1 pick."