STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- All-American left guard David Yankey is forgoing his final year of eligibility at Stanford to enter the NFL draft.
Yankey said in a statement released by the school Monday that ''the decision was not easy. I have loved my time at Stanford and am a proud member of Nerd Nation. I am humbled at the prospect of joining a long list of Stanford alumni currently playing in the NFL.''
The decision hardly came as a surprise. Yankey led one of the best offensive lines in the country last season and could be a first-round pick - and possibly the top interior linemen taken in the draft.
Yankey also is scheduled to graduate in the spring with a bachelor's degree in science, technology and society. He could have returned as a fifth-year senior due to an injury as a freshman.
Yankey is the first of three Stanford players who must decide whether declare for the draft before Wednesday's deadline for underclassmen. Right tackle Cameron Fleming and free safety Ed Reynolds are the others.
Linebacker A.J. Tarpley and defensive end Henry Anderson announced last week they would remain at Stanford for their final season of eligibility in hopes of improving their draft status.
After anchoring a stout offensive line at Stanford, Yankey had little left to accomplish on The Farm. The Cardinal ranked seventh nationally for fewest tackles for loss allowed (4.14) and 11th for fewest sacks allowed (1.14) per game. The unit also helped Tyler Gaffney run for 1,709 yards.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP