Damien Nash’s decision to leave college football a year early might or might not work out for him.
After quitting the Missouri football team at the end of the regular season, Nash, who was a junior tailback for the Tigers last year, announced on Friday he will enter the 2005 NFL Draft before graduating.
In a prepared statement Nash said he had been getting positive feedback to “go forward with his professional aspirations.”
But Chuck Cook, director of college scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs, said how successful Nash is could be determined not by his ability but by what NFL teams need next season.
“If there is someone who needs him, which there might be, then he could be taken fairly quickly,” Cook said. “But without that extra year it is tough to get a barometer as to where he could go in the next few years.”
That extra year, Cook said is critical to see not only if Nash, or any player in college football, is going to improve with time, but it also gets them ready physically to enter pro football.
“This is not like basketball or baseball where you can make the jump a little easier,” Cook said. “Your body will take a serious pounding in the NFL and most college players are not ready for that.”
In the next few weeks, Cook said he and many other NFL teams will sit down and begin studying Nash’s performance on the field to see if he is someone they want. Cook said the Chiefs probably would not be interested given their strong offense, but that does not hold true with other teams. Given his performance for Missouri, he said Nash is still is an impressive player.
Looking at Nash’s numbers, Cook said he might be skilled enough to overcome the physical barriers of going professional and find a place on a team.
Nash, a St. Louis native, rushed for 1,254 yards in the past two years and led the Tigers with 792 yards and seven touchdowns in 2004. He averaged 5 yards per carry in two years, had 12 rushing touchdowns and 36 receptions for 281 yards and two scores. Those stats, Cook said, could make him a valuable player.
Even with only a two-year track record with Missouri, coaches will also be looking at his reason for leaving early and other intangible items Cook said were important in determining what his value is on the field.
“Obviously there is some kind of situation that he wanted to leave for,” Cook said. “What that was and a whole list of other reasons will be plugged in to find out if this is someone a coach would want on his team.”
Nash, who could not be reached for comment, had a bumpy career with the Tigers despite being the leading rusher last season.
Nash, who was recruited in 2001, did not meet MU’s academic standards and went to Coffyville, (Kan.) Community College. He was redshirted for a year, then missed the 2002 season because of a knee injury in the opening game at Coffyville.
Nash was suspended for Missouri’s game against Nebraska after he criticized coach Gary Pinkel’s play calling in a 21-17 loss to Oklahoma the previous game, and at the end of the season, Nash announced that he was quitting the team.
In a prepared statement Pinkel said he was supportive of Nash’s decision to enter the NFL draft and would offer any support to assist him in his transition.
“Damien is a very talented football player and I think he’s got the ability to play at the next level,” Pinkel said. “I always view this as a positive situation, especially when someone looks into it properly and does it the right way.”
Pinkel could not be reached for comment.
The 2005 NFL Draft will be held on April 23-24 in New York.