USC quarterback Mark Sanchez announced Thursday that he intends to skip his senior season with the Trojans and enter the NFL draft.
"In the end, after sleepless nights and lots of prayers, I've decided I'll forgo my fifth year and declare for the NFL draft," Sanchez said at a news conference on USC's Los Angeles campus. "It is with a heavy heart I am going to leave this university."
Thursday was the deadline for underclassmen to apply for inclusion in the NFL draft, which is scheduled for April 25-26 in New York.
Trojans coach Pete Carroll tried to talk Sanchez into coming back for another season, noting that he started in just 16 college games and NFL teams often prefer quarterbacks with more experience.
"Mark is going against the grain, and he knows that," Carroll said. "And he's OK about that."
Sanchez started just one full season at USC, leading the Trojans to a 12-1 record and a No. 3 national ranking. He started in three games the previous season when John David Booty was hurt, going 2-1.
Sanchez is the fourth in a line of outstanding quarterbacks to play under Carroll at USC, joining Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart along with Booty. All three are on NFL rosters.
Sanchez is the only one of the four to leave school early for the pros. However, he said he plans to complete his undergraduate degree at USC this spring.
"I'm not quite leaving early," he said. "I'm just forgoing my fifth year."
A high school star in nearby Mission Viejo, Calif., Sanchez finished this season with 3,207 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He passed for 695 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions as a sophomore in 2007, and 63 yards and no touchdowns with one interception as a freshman in 2006. He redshirted in 2005.
Also declaring his intent to enter the NFL draft Thursday was Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin, who led the BCS national champion Gators in receiving (644 yards) and was second on the team in rushing (660 yards). He scored 17 touchdowns (seven receiving and 10 rushing) this season despite missing two games because of injury.
When healthy, though, Harvin looked like the fastest -- maybe even the most talented -- player on the field. He scored at least once in 15 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation, and burned defenses while lining up at receiver, running back and even quarterback.
"Percy is the most dynamic player I've ever coached and can change the game on any given play," Gators coach Urban Meyer said. "He has the best first step I've ever seen, and his ability to plant his foot and go is unmatched. Percy is a relentless competitor who wants to win. We wish him the best of luck, and we look forward to having him around our program."
Harvin finished his Florida career with 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns, and 194 carries for 1,852 yards and 19 scores. He averaged 9.5 yards per carry and 11.6 yards every time he touched the ball.
"I will have a lot of great memories from my time at Florida, but the championships we won in 2006 and 2008 will be at the top of my list," said Harvin, who has missed time with the Gators because of hamstring and ankle injuries, a stress fracture and migraines. "When it is all said and done, I wanted to win. I wanted to be a part of championship teams. We did that at Florida, and I had a great group of coaches, teammates and medical and strength staff that helped make that happen."
Ohio State defensive back Donald Washington and LSU wide receiver LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell also said they will leave school early and try the NFL. However, LaFell said he will not hire an agent, leaving open the possibility that he could return to LSU if he changes his mind within the next three days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.