Most college football juniors who are projected to be drafted, but not as first-round picks, agonize over the decision. A bad career move can be fraught with peril, and there is no shortage of advice from those who wish the player the best, or perhaps, those who simply have wishes of their own. Not so with E.J. Gaines.
In truth, turning pro early was never a legitimate consideration for Missouri's standout cornerback, according to kansascity.com. What is legitimate is Gaines' potential as an early-round pick next spring, and now that he's a senior, the focus is on a degree, not a decision.
"It sounded good, making some money," Gaines said, "but I could wait another year. My mom really pushed for me to get my degree, and I felt like that was probably the best choice for me. The NFL isn't promised."
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel called Gaines his best defensive player, according to newstribune.com. That's high praise on a team that includes defensive end Kony Ealy, who was projected as a third-round pick last year, and SEC sacks leader Michael Sam.
"He's our best defensive player, certainly coming into this year. It was tough for him to sit out. He's a great competitor. It's neat to see him come in and make some of the plays that he makes, so that's certainly a jump for us from a real positive standpoint."
According to the story, Gaines projected as high as a third-round pick last season had he left Missouri as a junior. Certainly, he's done nothing but help his draft status this year with the season he's had to date. He leads the Southeastern Conference in interceptions per game at 0.57. His four interceptions tie for the league lead with Ole Miss' Cody Prewitt, but having missed a couple of games with a quad injury, Gaines' presence in the secondary can't be understated.