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LaVar Arrington headed for the NFL
By Rich Emert
Valley News Dispatch

It was not an easy decision for LaVar Arrington. He promised his mother, Carolyn, he would get a diploma from Penn State University. He knew if he returned for a senior season of football at Penn State he would be a team leader, and that one more year of seasoning would not hurt.

After weighing all his options and talking things over with his parents and grandparents, Arrington announced Friday he will forego his senior season with the Nittany Lions and enter the 2000 NFL draft.

Arrington made his announcement before a crowd of more than 150 in the LGI Room at North Hills Junior High School. On hand for the announcement were Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley, who recruited Arrington out of North Hills High, North Hills coach Jack McCurry, North Hills assistant coach Rick Morris, Arrington's family and a ton of media.

"To be honest, I didn't think it would be this big of a deal," said Arrington, who earlier in the week was named the defensive MVP in the Alamo Bowl. "I've really been wrestling with it and deciding what would be best for me.

"I've got nothing left to prove at the college level think I've done all I could do. I'd love to have won a national championships. I've got a state title from high school and I'd have loved to had a national championship in college. But I think at this point I would best serve myself and my family and the community by making the leap and going to the league next year. So, I'm going to forego my senior year and enter into the NFL draft."

At 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds, Arrington has been one of the premier linebackers in the college ranks the past two seasons. This past year, he had 72 tackles of which 42 were solo stops and 10 quarterback sacks. In the Alamo Bowl, he was in on 14 tackles.

Seconds after Arrington said he would leave Penn State, Bradley jokingly said, "I'm going to change our blitz package right now."

Arrington said there were a lot of things that went into his decision. One of them was where he would be selected in the NFL draft in April. He is projected as going in the top five picks. The Washington Redskins, which will have the second pick in the draft, are interested in Arrington.

"I keep hearing anywhere from one to three," Arrington said. "If I wasn't going to go in the top five there would be no reason to enter the draft. If they wouldn't be slotting me in the top five I'd go back (for my senior year), there's no debate about that. That would be contradictory to be one of the top players in the country and not be one of the top picks."

Another reason he will pass up his senior year at Penn State is because of the number of defensive starters the Nittany Lions are losing to graduation.

"The guys I have been playing with the past the seasons are all leaving," Arrington said. "I talked to (teammate) Brandon Short about the whole thing. He came back for his senior season, but our situations are different. The guys he was playing with were all coming back this year."

Short, a McKeesport High graduate and inside linebacker for Penn State, had considered turning pro after his junior year. He decided to stay for the 1999 season in hopes that Penn State would capture a national title. The Nittany Lions are expected to be good in 2000, but are not expected to make a run for No. 1.

Arrington said he intends to get his degree in education from Penn State. He has been attending classes in the summer throughout his college career to keep up with his studies. "My mother would hurt me if I don't do that," he added with a smile.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno and Arrington did talk briefly about the decision to turn pro during the Alamo Bowl, although Arrington said he was disappointed Paterno didn't play more of an active role.

"Me and coach talked on the sidelines," he said. "I told him, `I think I'm going to go Joe.' I just wanted to hear what he'd say, and he said, `I think you'll do really well.'"

McCurry never had any doubts Arrington would make it to the NFL one day. He raved about Arrington when he was in eighth grade.

"You could just tell he had it all," McCurry said. "From the time he came to us as a freshman, you just knew he was going to make it to the big time."

Arrington has not selected an agent. He said there is time for that later. He was just glad to get the decision and announcement out of the way.

"I promise I will keep living as a normal person," he said. "I'll have a lot of money, but you won't see me being that type of person who lets the money overwhelm them. I'll be the same person always. I'll always be the LaVar, the person you can come up to and kick a can with down the street."