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January 5, 2012
'I will be a Spartan for the rest of my life'
EAST LANSING - Michigan State All-America defensive tackle Jerel Worthy will forgo his senior year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft, the redshirt junior announced on Thursday during a press conference at the Claa Bell Smith Center.
"It's a chapter of my life that I really don't want to close," Worthy said of his time at Michigan State, "but at the same time, this is something I'm going to handle with integrity, with the best care and support staff, just to try to be a success.
"I'm going to still support Spartan nation, no matter where I am across the country. I will be a Spartan for the rest of my life."
Worthy was joined at the press conference by head coach Mark Dantonio, Worthy's mother and his uncle.
Worthy said he made up his mind to join the NFL Draft after Michigan State's victory over Georgia in Monday's Outback Bowl.
"My decision came after we blocked that field goal against Georgia," he said. "I kind of knew in my heart this is the right way to go out, on top, as a winner."
Worthy also said that he wants to aid financially in the health care of his father, who suffered a stroke in the spring of 2010.
"I owed it to myself as well as my father that I would strive to do the best by him and my mother and try to give these guys the proper health service that they need," Worthy said. "My father is dealing with a lot of issues and that is one thing that I want to do is helping him out and get him back to being my father and the person I've grown to know.
"My father is slowly but surely progressing back to where he needs to be, but he is not getting the required therapy to make as fast a recovery as I would like."
Worthy is projected by most analysts as a first-round draft choice for this spring's NFL Draft. Dantonio said he cross-referenced that information with executives he knows in the league.
"In talking with a number of GMS, it has come to our decision, to his decision, to do this," Dantonio said. "I followed up with calls to specific (NFL) GMs, to people I knew, people I trusted as individuals, and some coaches. I don't think there is any question that he is going to make an NFL team. But what we wanted to make sure is that the dollars are there for him on the front end if he decided to do this. All of us believe that what is indicated is the situation."
Dantonio supported Worthy's decision.
"When you have a chance to see someone possibly in the first round, and the general consensus to be among the top 15 players in the draft, when you have an opportunity to do that, it is very difficult to pass up because of the financial situation that you would be in at this point in time," he said. "We wish him the best. We will miss him tremendously. We will miss his smile around the building. We will miss his work ethic and his opportunity to be a leader as a senior but in the end we want to do what's best for the players.
"Sometimes it's just about timing. At this point in time, in this young person's life, he wanted to move to his next challenge and close this chapter of his book and open a new one and we wish him nothing but success."
Worthy's mother, Stephanie, said she believes that Jerel would have come back to MSU as a fifth-year senior if Michigan State had lost to Georgia.
"He still felt like he owed it to Coach D," said Stephanie Worthy. "He wanted to get that championship. So that's what he did."
She said Jerel made his mind up in the team hotel after the Outback Bowl.
"We were visiting at the hotel and later on that evening, he told me 'I'm going to do it, mom'" said Mrs. Worthy. "He said if we didn't win, we'll be back (at MSU). And I believe him."
Worthy, a family community services major, is on schedule to graduate in May.
Worthy said he has not hired an agent, and will focus on that task in the next 48 hours.
"That's one of my main questions in talking with all these agents: What can you do to help my son get that degree," said Mrs. Worthy. "I understand football, and they talk money, but I still want that degree. The majority of them gave me really good feedback about getting that degree even while he is training even if they have to fly him back here to take a few classes, he will get that degree by this summer."
Mrs. Worthy offered a word of thanks to Dantonio, privately, before the press conference.
"As I said to Coach D earlier, 'Four years went quick. We were just here for an official visit. And I'm so thankful to you, because you've changed him.' It got here really, really quick."