Ronald Powell to leave Florida, enter 2014 NFL Draft

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Goodbye, RoPoCop.

Florida redshirt junior BUCK/linebacker Ronald Powell will declare for the 2014 NFL Draft, Florida announced through GatorZone on Monday.

"Ronald has informed me that he has made a decision to declare for the NFL Draft," said head coach Will Muschamp. "This hasn’t been an easy decision for him. I talked to him several times over the Holidays, but it was important for him to come back and look me in the eye and tell me what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it. It’s one of the great experiences as a coach to watch young players mature. It’s been well documented the hardships he has had to overcome and he has always kept a positive attitude. I wish him the best of luck and, as I’ve said before, I encouraged him to return to get his degree."

...

"I want to thank the entire Gator Nation for making a kid from California a part of their family," said Powell. "It’s hard to put into words what this whole experience has been for me. I’ve had so many opportunities and met so many people. All of them have been supportive and helpful in my time here. Because of that, I’ve had a chance to grow and mature into the man I am today and the man I am going to become in the future. This hasn’t been an easy decision because this is a tough place to walk away from - but really you never walk away from being a Gator. I never thought it would be this hard to make this decision – most people think it’s easy – go for the money. It’s hard to leave my brothers behind, but we’ve shared so much more than our time on the field. We’ve lived our lives together and we are truly a family. This place has so many memories that I will carry forever and I will never forget my coaches, teammates, trainers, strength staff, professors and the entire support staff that helped me during my time here. I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve experienced because they have all helped me grow. I will miss running out of the tunnel into The Swamp and all of the tradition and great rivalries. It has been an honor to be a part of Gator history and I will always represent The Gator Nation and bleed Orange and Blue. Thanks again to everyone and much love for The Gator Nation. Once a Gator, Always a Gator! Go Gators!"

Powell had been expected to make the jump by many people close to the program, which may come as a bit of a surprise for fans who haven't seen production commensurate with Powell's immense hype as Rivals' No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2010 during his four years in Gainesville. Powell finished his Florida career with 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, but nine of those TFLs and six of the sacks came during his sophomore season, when he came on toward the end of the year after a slow start to his time in orange and blue.

Then a torn ACL in Florida's 2012 Orange and Blue Game wrecked Powell's 2012 season, as an aggressive rehab plan designed to get him on the field within six months of the injury resulted in a reinjury that forced him to miss the entire year. Powell returned to action in 2013, but was closer to the form of his early sophomore year rather than the late-year success, and struggled with consistency and run support.

Powell's NFL Draft stock is, thus, sort of a mystery. But if he feels he can make it in the NFL right now, then more power to him for making the decision to get paid, especially after spending four years in Gainesville, struggling with a long rehab, and seeing other Florida players, like close friend Dominique Easley, suffer injuries that put careers on hold and at risk.

As always, we wish Powell well in his future athletic (and, hopefully, academic) career.

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