PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Saying the NFL "has been in my heart for a while," Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis is skipping his senior season and entering the draft.
"It's always been in the back of my head and now that the opportunity is here, I sat down with my coaches and my family and we decided that this my best move," said Davis, who has been projected as a first-round pick.
Some experts have slotted Davis as the third-rated, draft-eligible offensive tackle prospect behind Oklahoma State's Russell Okung and Oklahoma's Trent Williams.
"Being at Rutgers taught me to be a man," the 6-foot-6, 325-pound Davis said. "I just felt like I came in as a boy and leaving as a man and I'm ready for things to come."
Davis, 20, plans to interview agents soon, and shortly after that decide on where he will train in preparation for the NFL combine.
There might be a number of juniors who opt to skip their final season this year because the NFL players' collective bargaining agreement ends after next season. There is a possibility that a work stoppage might wipe out the 2011 season.
"Anthony's going to do very well at the combine," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "He's so athletic for anybody, forget big or small. But then throw in the fact that he's 320 pounds - he's an incredible athlete."
A starter since his freshman year, Davis was an all-Big East selection in 2009.
At the combine, which runs Feb. 24-March 2 in Indianapolis, Davis will likely need to explain a few off-the-field issues in recent years.
In 2008, Davis violated team policy and was suspended for the Morgan State game. This season, Davis was benched for the first quarter against Army after reporting late to a team function earlier that week.
His weight has also been scrutinized after he was demoted for the first six days of training camp this past summer for reporting overweight.
"It's just minor stuff," Davis said. "I'll be ready to explain all the questions about me missing the Morgan State game. I had no weight issues."
For Schiano, whose team is fresh off a 45-24 St. Petersburg Bowl win over Central Florida that capped the season at 9-4, it marks the third straight year that he's had a player declare for the NFL Draft.
Davis joins Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Tennessee rookie receiver Kenny Britt as Scarlet Knights who skipped their senior campaigns for the NFL.
"Anthony's ready," Schiano said. "He and I have talked many times. This has been a lifelong dream for him and there's no doubt in my mind that he's ready and he'll be a dominant player in that league."
Davis grew up in Piscataway and was one of the most highly touted recruits to attend Rutgers. He started 32 games for the Scarlet Knights, including 21 of the last 22 contests.
"I remember watching Super Bowls and started crying out of nowhere," Davis said. "I respect the game so much, and I've watched it over the years. It's an honor to be a part of it. I hope those guys realize what they're a part of and respect the game because it's bigger than us."