ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is putting millions of dollars on hold to chase a Big Ten championship.
The All-America first-team player and the league's offensive lineman of the year is staying for his senior season, turning down a chance to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft and to be rich as soon as this spring.
"People don't really understand why I wouldn't leave for the NFL," Lewan said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press before making his announcement. "But when I came to the University of Michigan, I didn't understand the tradition of this place, either. Now, I do. In the NFL, you just come and go. But here at Michigan, it's not like that. I love these guys - my teammates are my best friends - and I want to stay to win Big Ten championships."
Lewan said his teammates were very surprised he decided to stay.
"The (NFL) advisory board came back and said that I'd be a high first-round pick," Lewan told AP. "At first, it was difficult to turn that down. But the most important thing to me is the University of Michigan and winning a Big Ten championship before I leave."
The Wolverines finished last season 8-5 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten, extending a conference championship drought that dates to 2004.
Lewan helped the 24th-ranked Wolverines give up a Big Ten-low 15 sacks last season.
Lewan's decision to stay gives Michigan two returning starters on the offensive line to protect Devin Gardner in his first full year as a quarterback.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press