GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- University of Florida cornerback Joe Haden is skipping his final year of eligibility and applying for entry into the 2010 NFL Draft.
Haden announced his intentions Sunday, two days after No. 5 Florida beat fourth-ranked Cincinnati 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl.
"This was a tough decision, and I spent a lot of time with my family talking about it," Haden said in a statement released by the school. "I'm so proud that I had the chance to be a Gator. It's been one of the best experiences of my life."
The All-American led the Gators with four interceptions this season and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive back. He also had 68 tackles, 10 pass breakups, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
The first true freshman to start at cornerback for Florida, Haden started every game in three seasons. He finished with 218 tackles and eight interceptions, and he's widely considered college football's top cornerback.
"We're sad to see Joe go because he's a great leader and a dynamic player," interim coach Steve Addazio said. "But we know that with his tremendous talent, he will be a special player at the next level. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Joe, and we wish him nothing but the best."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press