BERKELEY, Calif. — California star tailback Jahvid Best announced Saturday that he will skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft after a disappointing final college season cut short by injury.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. It took a lot of thought and we got a lot of advice from everybody,” Best said on a conference call. “This is an opportunity that I can’t pass up.”
Best missed the final four games of the season after a frightening fall knocked him out and sent him to the hospital with a concussion and sore back. Best said the injury played only a small role in his decision and actually made it more likely that he would have stayed so he could have ended his career on a high note.
Best said he has heard projections that have him going as high as the first round and as low as the third round in April’s draft. But he said those are nothing more than guesses and didn’t play much of a role in his decision.
“It was just kind of a gut feeling,” he said. “I go with my feelings. That’s how I make decisions. I feel like I’m ready to play in the NFL and I think I’ll be successful.”
Best said he’s still not fully healed from the injury that occurred Nov. 8, when he fell on the back of his head from about 8 feet while leaping into the end zone for a touchdown against Oregon State.
He was unconscious after the fall and taken off the field on a stretcher. He was hospitalized overnight and did not return to the field the rest of the season. It was his second concussion of the season, having sustained a mild one the previous week at Arizona State.
“I’m still not 100 percent right now,” Best said. “But I’m very optimistic about my ability to come back by the time the combine and pro day come around. I have no doubt in my mind I’ll be able to perform.”
Best entered the season as one of the most dynamic running backs in the country and a contender for the Heisman Trophy. He finished with 16 touchdowns and 867 yards rushing before the injury.
In his career at Cal, Best had 2,668 yards rushing, 62 catches for 533 yards and 35 total touchdowns. He had 11 rushes for more than 60 yards and four that went for at least 80.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “I think Jahvid has great potential. The obvious thing is his speed. But I don’t know if everybody appreciates his ability to catch football. I think he’s just going to get better and better.”
With Best sidelined down the stretch, Shane Vereen rushed for 566 yards and six touchdowns in the final four games for Cal (8-5). Vereen’s best performance came in the Big Game at Stanford, when he carried 42 times for 193 yards and three scores in a 34-28 victory.
Vereen finished his sophomore season with 852 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
“Shane Vereen is very comparable,” Tedford said. “Those two guys really did a nice job complementing each other. Shane when healthy has a lot of the same characteristics Jahvid has. We’re very fortunate there.”