Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley will forgo his senior season at Auburn and enter the 2011 National Football League Draft.
Fairley finished his junior season with 60 tackles, including a school-record 24.0 tackles for loss, with 11.5 quarterback sacks. "I was thinking, 'What more could I accomplish my senior year?'" Fairley said. A native of Mobile, Fairley was a consensus All-American in 2010 and was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press.
"Nick emerged into a very dominate player this season and was a key factor for the success of our championship run," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. "His ability to control the line of scrimmage was truly amazing. We know that Nick loves Auburn, but this decision is in the best interest of him and his family. We wish him well as he takes the next step in his football career and life."
Fairley said he had a long visit with coach Chizik and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker in Auburn, then came home and talked it over with his parents. After that, "I went on a long ride by myself. I think I came out with the best decision to benefit me, my family and all the folks around me." Fairley played two seasons at Auburn after transferring from junior college. He flashed his potential at times in 2009, but didn't consistently dominate until this season.
"It's crazy for me to be in this position," Fairley said. "Coming into this year, I didn't think things were going to be this big. I didn't know I was going to have a big year like that." In Auburn's BCS National Championship Game victory over Oregon, Fairley had five tackles including three for loss and a sack while garnering defensive MVP honors.
Former Auburn defensive end and Williamson product Antonio Coleman attended the announcement and compared Fairley to Ndamukong Suh, a tackle who was drafted second overall by Detroit last year.
"You rarely meet defensive tackles like Nick Fairley -- big, strong, fast -- all in one," said Coleman, who just completed his rookie season with the Buffalo Bills. "Suh came out last year, and I think he's better than him. That's just my opinion. "I think he has a great opportunity."Fairley is one of nine siblings, and said he wants to use his NFL money to "set my mom and dad straight."
"All the pain and struggle they went through to get me where I'm at right now, I just want to pay them back for it," he said. Fairley's mother, Paula Rogers, said she urged her son to stay in school.
"But like I told him, 'Whatever decision you make it's up to you,'" Rogers said. "I would love him to have that degree for Auburn. He's going back to get it. I'll make sure of that. He came too close not to get it."
Fairley also wanted to fulfill the wish of grandfather Chester Fairley, who died when Nick was 14. "This has been a dream of my grandfather since I can remember, sitting down and watching sports with him on Sundays," Fairley said. "He was just like, 'I want to see one of my grandkids on TV one day on Sunday.' It's working out so I can make his dream come true, and I know he's looking down and smiling on me today."