COLUMBIA — Jeremy Maclin was strong enough to hold back the tears for more than six minutes.
But after announcing he will enter the 2009 NFL Draft and leave his "family," the most prolific receiver in Missouri history was overcome with emotion after a few questions and had to leave the room at his press conference Friday morning.
"It's been a long time coming," Maclin said in front of a room that included several of his teammates and coaches. "I've seen a lot, I've experienced a lot. Not only have the coaches helped me excel on the football field, they also taught me how to be a man."
The redshirt sophomore broke the NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yards with 2,776 in 2007. He topped that this season, posting 2,833 total yards. Maclin and coach Gary Pinkel both said the risk of another injury, like Maclin's torn ACL in 2006, was an important factor in the decision.
Maclin is projected to be a first-round pick in the draft that will take place April 25 and 26 in New York City. The last pick in the first round of the 2008 draft, Miami's Kenny Phillips, signed a five-year, $11.5 million contract.
Pinkel said he had anticipated the announcement, and Maclin may leave more of an impact than his 33 touchdowns in 28 games as a Tiger.
"It's a big help for us in terms of it's a great opportunity here," Pinkel said. "You can be a first round pick here at the University of Missouri because of what we do in our offense. That's one thing that was really appealing to (Maclin). We can go out and tell the story."