JACKSONVILLE, Fla. ‚Äî When Georgia junior linebacker Ramik Wilson was asked on Saturday if he had made his decision whether to enter the NFL draft or not, he replied, ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know yet … but it‚Äôs coming real soon.‚Äù
How soon? How about 72 seconds?
It took that long for Wilson to go from being on the fence to blurting out, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm coming back,‚Äù during an interview session with the media before the second practice of Gator Bowl week at Jacksonville University. ‚ÄúIt will be a dream come true, the chance to get drafted but school is more important, getting my degree.‚Äù
The decision means the game against Nebraska on Jan. 1 at Jacksonville‚Äôs EverBank Field won‚Äôt be Wilson‚Äôs last. A Tampa native and the Bulldogs‚Äô leading tackler at inside linebacker, Wilson said he had been consulting with his family over the decision but had not applied for a draft grade from the NFL.
He said the bulk of the conversation with his family had been about whether he was ready for the NFL or not.
‚ÄúMy parents said to make the best decision for me and live with it,‚Äù said the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Wilson. ‚ÄúThey will support me no matter what. They understand I need to stay in school and get better on the field.‚Äù
Wilson is a communications major and earlier this year, was awarded the UGA Athletic Achievement Award for showing academic improvement over the past year.
Of course Wilson is free to change his mind and has until Jan. 15 to notify the NFL if he wants to be made available for the draft. But he sounded convinced by the end of his interview.
What seemed to strike a nerve in Wilson just before he said he was returning to Georgia was a question about the difficulty of leaving his teammates and the school.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs real important … school, the guys,‚Äù he said. ‚Äú[The season] brought us together a lot, [fans and media] saying we were inconsistent. We‚Äôre a family.‚Äù
Georgia coach Mark Richt didn‚Äôt sound surprised when he was told of Wilson‚Äôs statement and said it was for the best that he return.
‚ÄúGood … I‚Äôm glad,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI think it will help Ramik and it will help Georgia. I think Ramik had a tremendous year and I think he knows he can get better.‚Äù
Wilson‚Äôs announcement means the Bulldogs will return 10 of the 11 starters on the depth chart entering the Gator Bowl against Nebraska for the 2014 season, with Wilson one of only four who will be seniors. Senior defensive end Garrison Smith will be the only starter playing his last game Jan. 1 for UGA.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got to stay together and keep improving,‚Äù Wilson said.
Wilson has 138 tackles this season, 72 solo stops. He has 11 tackles for losses and four sacks; and has also broken up three passes and been credited for seven quarterback pressures.