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UCLA football: Akeem Ayers declares for the NFL draft

January 3, 2011 |  6:44 pm

Ayers_300 UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers said he would enter the NFL draft, forgoing his senior season.

“I will miss playing with my UCLA teammates next year but I feel that the decision to go to the NFL is what is best for my family. I will always be a Bruin.”

Ayers, a projected first-round pick in several mock drafts, created big plays during the past two seasons as a starter, earning second-team All-American honors by the Walter Camp Foundation in 2010. His play this season was slowed by shoulder and toe injuries, but he still finished with two interceptions, four sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

“I want to thank my coaches, teammates and everyone at UCLA for all of their help the last few years,” Ayers said in a statement released by the school. “I have had a great experience at UCLA and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend such an outstanding school.

Ayers can return to UCLA, having until Jan. 18 to withdraw from the draft as long as he has not signed with an agent.

Ayers caught the eye of scouts a year ago. He had six sacks and four interceptions. He sscored three touchdowns, two on interceptions and one on a fumble return.

“Akeem has been a big-play performer throughout his career at UCLA and we support his decision to move to the next level,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “Who will ever forget his interceptions against Oregon and Temple that he turned into touchdowns or his many sacks? We will miss Akeem, but we look forward to watching him make those same types of plays on Sundays in the NFL.”

--Chris Foster

Photo: UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers scores on an interception return against Temple to help the Bruins win the Eagle Bank Bowl. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times