After much deliberation with family and coaches, junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley has decided to enter the NFL draft.
Although Saturday is the deadline to make an official decision, Fairley chose to make his public announcement Friday morning at his alma mater: Mobile's Williamson High School.
"Nick emerged into a very dominate player this season and was a key factor for the success of our championship run," head coach Gene Chizik said. "His ability to control the line of scrimmage was truly amazing. We know that Nick loves Auburn, but this decision is in the best interest of him and his family. We wish him well as he takes the next step in his football career and life."
Fairley dominated on the field during Auburn's national championship season with 60 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. In December he was named the 2010 Lombardi Award winner, an honor presented to the nation's top lineman.
He was also named the defensive Most Valuable Player of the national title game for his performance that included a sack, three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble against Oregon.
"I was thinking, 'What more could I accomplish my senior year?'" Fairley said.
Mock NFL drafts have Fairley as a shoe-in for the first round. ESPN's Mel Kiper's Big Board has Fairley in the top spot (Carolina) while CBSSports.com lists Fairley at the No. 3 overall pick (Buffalo).
Fairley was a three-star offensive guard commit in Auburn's 2007 signing class, but failed to qualify academically. After two year's at Mississippi's Copiah-Lincoln Junior College, Fairley was part of head coach Gene Chizik's inaugural signing class in 2009. He signed as a three-star defensive tackle.
Fairley played in every game in 2009 and started the season-opener and the Outback Bowl game. Early in the 2010 season, coaches commented that if Fairley can be consistent, he would be a special player.
Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker recently talked about how he is proud of Fairley's impressive progress throughout the past season.
"I walking down the hall the other and I just so happened to look up and I saw the Outback Bowl celebration picture," Rocker said. "And I saw Nick's little face in the middle of it. And I'm sitting here and I'm trying to like ... Wow. No one really knew. No one knew what would Nick be? And then all of a sudden this transformation for Nick started in the spring when he walked out there in the spring and he started to tell everyone where to line up and he knew where to line up immediately, and I said that was a great sign. And then going to fall practice, he was practicing at a different speed. The game had slowed down for him. And assignment-wise he got better and better, and then after ... once he got the interception against Mississippi State, the light was on. After that I got out of coaching. I was just trying to make sure he showed up at the game."
The 2011 NFL draft will be held April 28-30 at New York City's Radio City Music Hall.