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Jerel Worthy to enter 2012 NFL Draft

January 5, 2012

Junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy announced he will forgo his senior year and enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

Sitting beside MSU football head coach Mark Dantonio on Thursday afternoon at the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Center, junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy announced he will forgo his senior year and enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

“I’ve been thinking about this decision day and night,” Worthy said. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me.”

The unanimous AP First Team All-American selection will leave the team as one of the
most celebrated defensive tackles in recent program history. In his time with the team, Worthy
recorded 107 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. Those numbers tie Worthy for twelfth in program history for sacks and thirteenth for tackles for loss.

“I think it’s a very difficult thing to do for a young person, but I think he’s done it with
dignity, and he’s done it with class,” Dantonio said about Worthy’s decision. “My job as the head football coach here is to obviously win football games, but it’s also to help players grow, help people grow, not just in the classroom, but on the field and socially. So when you have the opportunity to see someone go in possibly the first round … it’s very difficult to pass up.”

Worthy said he came to the decision after the Spartans secured a victory against Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl on Monday. In that game, a 33-30 triple overtime thriller that ended on a blocked field goal and was Worthy’s last in a Spartan uniform, he had five tackles and two for a loss — both tying career high marks.

“I kind of knew in my heart that this is the right time to go out — On top, as a winner,” Worthy said. “I wouldn’t probably be sitting up here today had we lost because I would have felt like I still had more to prove.”

The Huber Heights, Ohio, native also revealed that his father had a stroke in the spring of 2010, which impacted his choice.

“I vowed to myself, as well as my father, that I would try to do as best by him and my mother and try to get these guys the proper health service that they need,” Worthy said.

Worthy’s mother, Stephanie Worthy, said when her son received the call about his father’s health, it made him work even harder to help support his family.

“He’s pushed himself to get there,” Stephanie Worthy said. “He’s worked really, really, hard, and I’m very proud of him.”

She added that her son still is expected to graduate in May, and Jerel Worthy’s academic standing was a topic of conversation when she was discussing his future with NFL agents.

Worthy has not yet hired an agent, but he is projected to be picked in either the first or second round of the NFL Draft at the end of April. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., placed Worthy at No. 20 on his infamous big board, also listing him as the fourth best defensive tackle in the draft.

Dantonio said he and Worthy spoke with a number of NFL General Managers to help gauge where the 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle might end up in the draft.

“We got an official rating from the NFL draft committee indicating that (Worthy) would be a very high draft choice,” Dantonio said. “I don’t think there’s any question that he will end up on an NFL team, but what we (wanted) to do is make sure that the dollars were on the front end should he decide to do this.”

Worthy’s absence leaves a big gap along the Spartan defensive line, which he helped anchor to lead one of the most successful MSU football seasons in recent history and the program’s first bowl win since 2001.

“We wish him the best (here) at Michigan State, and we will miss him tremendously,” Dantonio said. “We’ll miss his smile around the building, we’ll miss his work ethic, we’ll miss the opportunity to lead as a senior, we’ll miss his play on the field. But most of all, we want to do what’s best for the players in the end.”

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