After reports of juniors Dion Sims and Le’Veon Bell foregoing their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft made headlines the past two days, the duo released statements along with head coach Mark Dantonio Thursday evening.
Bell, who ESPN’s Scouts Inc. has listed as the second best running back in the upcoming draft, announced his decision via Twitter Thursday afternoon and described the process as “the hardest decision” of his life.
“It’s difficult to leave my teammates and coaches as well as Spartan Nation, but I couldn’t pass on pursuing my dream and the opportunity to change my mom’s life,” Bell said in the statement.
“I couldn’t have written a better script for my final game in a Spartan uniform, coming back from a 13-0 deficit against TCU to win in the final minute. I ran the ball well against a great TCU defense, but the most important thing was getting the ‘W.’ It was exciting to celebrate with my teammates one last time and leave on that note.
“Although I’m leaving, Michigan State still has some capable running backs returning, in Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford. Those guys will be running behind a talented and experienced offensive line. Nick and Jeremy are both tough, talented athletes and their time is now.”
Dantonio said the bruising 6-foot-2, 237 pound running back’s most impressive attribute is his durability, carrying the ball 382 times, third most for a single-season in MSU history.
Bell’s 1,793 rushing yards ranked as the second best single-season total in program history.
“As a 20-year-old, Le’Veon faced an extremely difficult decision,” Dantonio said. “While I do believe there was both personal and program value in Le’Veon returning for his senior season, I acknowledge the difficult choice he had to make.”
Sims’ decision to declare for the NFL Draft was first reported by ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad Wednesday night, but Sims first addressed the report Thursday afternoon on Twitter, thanking Spartan Nation for four of the best years of his life.
Sims is ranked by Scouts Inc. as the No. 4 tight end in the upcoming draft and the 77th ranked prospect overall.
At 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, Sims said in the statement that he believes his combination of size and speed will help him be a playmaker at the next level.
“After talking things over with my family and some of my teammates, I decided the timing was right to make the move because I believe that I’m ready to play at the next level,” Sims said. “I think I can impress the pro scouts with my end-line blocking and provide a big target over the middle. With my size and athleticism, I can create mismatches in the passing game against linebackers and safeties.
“Coach Dantonio has built a great football program at Michigan State. He is a great coach and an even better person. Coach D has a solid nucleus of players returning, plus he’ll bring in a talented recruiting class. He also has surrounded himself with great coaches and they’ll develop a plan to get the job done next season.”
Sims, who was suspended for the 2010 season for his involvement in the theft of 104 laptops from Detroit Public Schools, returned to the program and became a productive player despite battling injuries.
Dantonio has said in the past that Sims matured from when he first arrived on campus and it showed on the field this year.
“Despite missing nearly three full games, Dion Sims still earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, so that says something about his production,” Dantonio said in the statement. “He’s a big target with great hands. With his combination of size and power, Dion is difficult to bring down, so he gains a lot of yards after the catch. He’s also a much improved run-blocker.
“Although we’ll miss Dion in our offense next season, he felt the timing was right and we wish him all the best in his future. Since returning to Michigan State, our offensive system has helped develop two tight ends that are currently playing in the NFL, in Kellen Davis (Chicago Bears) and Garrett Celek (San Francisco 49ers), so there’s a proven track record of our players having success at his position at the next level.”