AUSTIN -- Texas junior running back Jamaal Charles has elected to leave school early and enter the 2008 NFL Draft, the 2007 first-team All-Big 12 selection said on Wednesday.
"I can't thank Coach Brown, Coach Rucker, everyone at UT and all of the fans enough," Charles said. "They gave me a great opportunity and supported me so much. UT is a wonderful place and everyone has been so good to me. But, playing in the NFL has always been my dream and when the NFL report came back, I was happy with the grade and felt like it was best for me to enter the draft.
"I had fun playing with a lot of great players and winning a bunch of games. I have so many friends at UT and everyone is close, like a family, so it's really hard to leave. But, after finishing the season strong, I think I'm ready. I've worked really hard and the coaches have done a great job preparing me. I had a lot of success this year but I wouldn't have been able to accomplish anything if it wasn't for the great job the offensive line and all of the coaches did. We got better every game and it showed in how we played so I can't thank them, especially my O-line, enough."
Charles, who shared UT's team MVP honors with Colt McCoy in 2007, capped his junior season by running for 161 yards and two TDs in the Horns 52-34 win over No. 12 Arizona State in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. The unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection rushed for 1,619 yards and 18 TDs on 258 carries in 2007. He also caught 17 passes for 199 yards to record 1,818 yards.
"We appreciate everything Jamaal has done for Texas and want to wish him all of the best," said Mack Brown. "He has been a great player for us and more importantly a tremendous person, student and representative of our program.
We thank him, support him and look forward to following his career in the NFL."
A 2007 Doak Walker Award semifinalist, Charles finished the year strong, rushing for 897 yards and 10 TDs on 116 carries over the last five games. That included a career-high 290-yards and three-TD rushing effort in leading UT to a 28-25 comeback victory over Nebraska. His 216 yards in the fourth quarter of that game were the second-most in a quarter in NCAA history. He also rushed for 180 yards and three TDs and 174 yards and a score in victories over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. His seven 100-yard rushing games on the season are tied for fifth-most on the UT single-season chart.
A three-time All-Big 12 pick and 2005 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, Charles finished his career ranked fourth on the UT all-time rushing list with 3,328 yards, tied for fifth in rushing TDs (36) and ranked fourth in total TDs scored (39). He averaged 20.3 yards per TD run for his career. Charles also caught 49 passes for 539 yards and three TDs to tally 3,867 yards (No. 6 on the UT all-time list) from scrimmage. He had 31 career runs of at least 20 yards.
The Port Arthur, Texas native and Memorial High School graduate was also a four-time All-American in track and field for the Longhorns. He ran a career-best 10.23-second 100 meters en route to the Big 12 title as a true freshman in 2006. He also was a three-time member of UT's Athletic Director's Honor Roll (3.0 GPA) and Big 12 Commissioner's list.