Lewis Sanders, one of the top defensive players on Maryland's football team as a junior cornerback this past season, has decided to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Vanessa Sanders said her son was training in California and could not immediately be reached to comment. However, she said the concern of another serious injury--he missed the 1998 season because of a shoulder injury--and the Terrapins' four-game losing streak to end this season, which kept Maryland out of a bowl game for the ninth consecutive season, contributed to the decision.
"He was fearful of another injury," Vanessa Sanders said, "and there was the disappointment of the team not going on to a bowl game."
The deadline for non-seniors to enter the draft was midnight last night, but an NFL spokesman said the league will not release the names of players entering the draft until Wednesday.
Sanders, who is 6 feet 1 and weighs 200 pounds, was named first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference this season, his first as a cornerback. He had a team-leading six interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He also had 56 tackles and broke up 14 passes. As a kickoff returner, Sanders averaged 26.8 yards per return.
Information provided by the NFL to Sanders indicated that he is likely to be selected in the fifth round. However, Vanessa Sanders said her son expects to be selected in the second or third round. Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. predicts Sanders as a late second- or early third-round draft pick on ESPN's Web site.
"I'm surprised that he is going," Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden said. "But once he made the decision, he had my full support. I wish him nothing but the best."
Meantime, Maryland running back LaMont Jordan, who previously said he will return for his senior season, reiterated those intentions last week.