Jan. 5, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State All-America defensive tackle Jerel Worthy announced at a press conference on Thursday afternoon at the Clara Bell Smith Auditorium that he would forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
Worthy and MSU head coach Mark Dantonio answered questions from the media at the press conference and talked about Worthy's decision.
Below is a complete transcript of the press conference:
Jerel Worthy: I want to first thank all of you guys for being with me here today. My support in the back, my teammates, my mother, my uncle, all you guys that have been able to cover the Michigan State program for the last few years I've been here, it's been a pleasure getting to know all you guys over the last few years.
I've been thinking about this decision day and night. It's been a tough couple weeks for me. For one, just being able to prepare for the game with Georgia, how crazy of a game it was going to be. We knew going in it was going to be an exciting and electrifying game. Just knowing that at the end of the day, I was going to have a tough decision to make, whether or not it was going to be my last game or not. Just kind of understanding the importance of making this decision and taking things slow.
It's been a great journey while I've been here. It's been an exciting four years getting to know everybody, the coaching staff, Coach D, my defensive coaches, my guys in the back, Team Easy, just a lot of the friendships that I've acquired over the last four years.
After a lot of deliberation with my family, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of prayer, talking with God as far as the decision I was going to make, I decided, you know, for the benefit of myself as well as my family and my future that I will forgo my senior year and enter the NFL Draft and have a chance to play in the National Football League.
COACH DANTONIO: Just to follow up on what Jerel has said, this is something that he took very, very seriously, that he investigated, and we investigated really throughout the past two weeks.
He spent four years here. He was redshirted the first year, so he has four years of growth here as a college student and as an athlete, as a football player.
In talking with a number of GMs, probably four or five different GMs, it basically has sort of come to our decision, to his decision, to do this.
But I think (for) Jerel, very difficult. I didn't know if he was going to actually come out and say it there for a minute because he was sort of dragging it out. (laughter)
I think it's a very difficult thing to do for a young person. But I think he's done it with dignity and he's done it with class. He didn't detract from his teammates or the football game this past week by doing it at the game. He waited till the appropriate time.
He took the time to drive up here and do this in person with you guys, the people that really have supported him in the last three years. I think that says a lot about the young person.
My job as the head football coach here is obviously to win football games, but it's also to help players grow and help people grow, not just in the classroom but on the field and socially.
When you have an opportunity to see someone go possibly in the first round, it would seem to me the general consensus is the top 50 players in the draft, most indicate the first round at some point, when you have an opportunity like that, it's very difficult to pass up because of the financial situation that you would be in at this point in time.
So we wish him the best at Michigan State. We will miss him tremendously. We'll miss his smile around the building. We'll miss his work ethic. We'll miss his opportunities to lead as a senior. We'll miss his play on the field.
In the end, we want to do what's best for the players. Sometimes it's just about timing. At this point in time in this young person's life, this was the time that he wanted to take the opportunity to move to his next challenge and close this chapter of his book and to open a new one. So we wish him nothing but success.
Q. Jerel, wondering when you actually came to the decision, and talk about the process, what your next step is.
Jerel Worthy: You know, as far as spiritually my decision kind of came after we blocked that field goal against Georgia. I kind of knew it in my heart that this is the right way to go out, on top, a winner.
Having come in here, achieving a lot of the goals that have been set forth for me as well as this team since I've been here, trying to follow the criteria that Coach D set since I've been here, trying to abide by all the rules and regulations that he set forth for this team and for this program.
Personally, I just want to go out on top as a winner. I want to go out having a lot of the fans and my friends and families that over these last four years I've given all that I've got.
It's difficult to come up here and kind of, you know, speak about playing in your last game for MSU, a lot of the memories that I've shared since I've been here with the friends and families I've grown to know, it's difficult to come up here and speak on it.
I know that I have an obligation as far as toward my family, as far as support, being there for them in these upcoming years. A lot of the things that made my decision a lot easier to make, one reason was a lot of people didn't know, but my father had a stroke before the 2010 season. I vowed to myself as well as my father that I would strive to do the best by him and my mother, strive to get these guys the proper health service that they need.
My father is dealing with a lot of issues, and that's one thing that I want to try to do, you know, as far as helping him out and getting him back to being my father, the person that I've grown to know. As far as my process, you know, I haven't hired an agent yet. I'm going to take the next 48 hours to decide what I'm going to do. I'm just going to try to go about this the best way I know how, by taking things slow, the way that Coach D and this coaching staff has taught me to make choices over the last four years.
What I'm going to do is take a backseat, analyze all the information I've been given, just try to make the best and proper decision.
Q. Mark, we all have watched Jerel play football. What is your fondest memory of him off the field?
COACH DANTONIO: He's a fun guy to be around. He's always got that smile going. You know, I can't pick really one moment. But Jerel is very easy going. He's a guy that loves people. I think he's got a great relationship with the coaches and with his players. He's a guy that you can get on, you can coach him hard, and he'll bounce back. He's not going to be a pouter.
I don't know. My fondest moments usually about Jerel are when we win. I certainly liked seeing him after this last game, and some other times after the last couple years.
I think it's important to recognize we've had great success the last two years having won 11 games. With great success, that affords opportunities to individuals, sometimes earlier than they normally would have. I think you see the result of what we're doing up here today is the result of a lot of people working very hard and winning football games and sort of rising to the top as a program.
It's evident that you have a guy like this having an opportunity to go out. The only thing I told (him), he owes us a defensive lineman, so he's got to recruit one for us.
Q. Jerel, how did Ted Gill impact and help you in your career?
Jerel Worthy: Coach Gill, from the moment I walked on this campus to this point now, he's matured me as a man. Coach Gill has always been a hard nosed coach. He's always going to coach me hard. He's always a guy that's never going to let me slack and not give my best. He showed me the way to playing the defensive line the proper way, to play with toughness and integrity, to never try to take any downs off, try to affect the game as much as possible.
One thing he always preaches is that as a defensive linemen you're going to be hurt. There's going to be times when you're not feeling your best. There's going to be times where you may not want to go out there and practice. But it's your obligation to this team and to this program to give everything you've got.
That's what I've done. I've tried to stay as healthy as possible over these last few years and just show him my toughness and my will to win. Over these last few years, I just tried to do everything that was needed and was required of me for the benefit of this program.
Even with my departure, I know there's a lot of guys on this defense that are going to step up next year. One of my closest friends, Denzel Drone, is going to be an effective leader. Rashad White had a heck of a bowl game; his preparation toward taking the next step to obviously be in my position now. I feel like he's the guy that will take the reins of the defensive line and kind of mold it into his own.
With a lot of the guys that I've grown to love, Denicos (Allen), the linebacking corps, (Max) Bullough, one of my closest friends Trenton (Robinson), Johnny (Adams), it's going to be sad not being on the same team, sad not showing up to spring ball, not hanging out with those guys as much as we d just being able to experience the college life. It's something that I'm definitely going to miss, something that I'm trying to, you know, kind of hold in a little bit. I've got a little bit of emotion, but I'm trying to hold it in a little bit.
Q. Is your father okay now? What is his condition currently?
Jerel Worthy: My father is slowly but surely progressing back to where he needs to be. One thing that kind of led me to this decision is the simple fact that he's not getting the required therapy needed to make as fast of a recovery as I would like.
He's near and dear to my heart. Coach D understood when the incident happened and he had a stroke, I was in a car heading back to Ohio within 25 minutes of me actually telling Coach D this news. So Coach D understands that my family is near and dear to my heart as well as the Spartan family. He knows it's my obligation to do whatever is required for my family. That's what led to this decision, as well.
Q. Jerel, when you came here you were probably a kid in many ways. How much did Michigan State and maybe that gentleman next to you turn you into a man?
Jerel Worthy: From the moment I walked in the door to my first summer workout with Coach Mannie, it's been a great experience. These guys have transformed me into a man that's needed to require to go out into the world and be successful. I feel like I've grown a lot since I've been here. I've been through a lot of ups and downs since I've been here more ups than downs. They've taught me the way with the situations I've been able to place myself in, good and bad, and being able to understand that I have to grow from it.
Since I've been here, I've used this platform of Michigan State to give back to my community. I try to show as much support for our community as well as our fan base out there.
A lot of people that has inspired me over these last few years, just to name a couple, one of my closest friends, Arthur Ray. I can remember just kind of sitting in Case Hall across the street as freshmen. He couldn't go out, he was on crutches. Being close friends, I'm just sitting there telling him, `Just bide your time and one day we're going to be successful.' The time is here, it's now, and it's something that I have to go forth and pursue.
Another person that's been an inspiration to me as long as I've known is Paige Duren. She's a person that always texts and calls me telling me just to believe in anything that I try to do. She's one of my closest friends. She's somebody I'm going to take with me for the rest of my life from being here.
Michigan State has just molded me into the person I could see myself being in the future, the person that gives back, the person that loves this community, the person that does a lot of things for his team as well as his teammates.
Q. Mark, you talked about the long term, having him help you recruit a replacement. What's your short term contingency for personnel?
COACH DANTONIO: Rashad White is back. We lose Kevin Pickelman. (Johnathan) Strayhorn has played in there. Now Jerel. We lose three of the five guys that were playing in there.
We did manage to redshirt quite a few guys this year. So Damon Knox is a guy I think will be an excellent player. Joel Heath is a guy that showed flashes. James Kittredge is a guy. Those three guys. Matt Ramondo, Mark Scarpinato, Brandon Clemons, all six of those guys are guys we redshirted. They're all going to have to move forward and get better as players because they're young. They all have some time left.
Then we'll continue to recruit to that position, as well. There's an opportunity to play. We may take a JC (junior college) guy to fill that void because we are young. But we'll see how it shakes out as we go.
There is opportunity there. We hate to lose a guy like Jerel because you're not just not getting a recruit, you're losing one of your best players, you're losing a first round draft pick. Those are hard to substitute for.
But given the circumstances and everything that's involved, as I said earlier, you want the best for your players. I sit there and I saw Jerel after the game coming up the elevator. We talked then. We talked throughout the week. I understand the deal. We've been coaching long enough. You understand the opportunities that are afforded people.
Life is so much sometimes about timing. We wish him the best. Again, this is an opportunity for him to do this. It just shows what type of person he is by coming up here and doing this here because this hasn't happened for many people. Most people just announce it and go about their business but he's tried to do it the right way and I appreciate that.
Q. Can you talk about how Coach Narduzzi impacted you.
Jerel Worthy: Coach Narduzzi, he's a crazy character. He's a guy that kind of reminded me of my old high school coach as far as how interactive he is with the defense. I remember coming up here with my official visit with Tyler Hoover back on Dec. 19, 2007, I think, just kind of getting a feel how he interacted with his players during bowl practice. He was all hooting and hollering, getting the guys hyped and ready to go.
I kind of knew from the different visits that I've taken to other places that he interacts with his players at a much higher level than a lot of other defensive coordinators, he pushes a lot of guys to be successful.
Coach Narduzzi is a very vocal guy. He'll tell you how he's feeling at any given moment. But he's a guy that always has your best interests at heart. He's been with me, sticking with me, being a starter for the last three seasons.
I thank him as well as Coach D and the rest of the defensive coaching staff for putting the trust in me to deliver, trusting in me to be the starter for this program at such an early age. I was a redshirt freshman. I hadn't played a down of actual live football in a couple seasons. You know, just having them give me that faith to go out there and to execute, just giving me the trust to go out there and be the player that I am today, I thank them for that. Coach Narduzzi, as well as Coach Gill and Coach Barnett.
Q. Jerel, you don't make a decision based on one game. You said the blocked field goal clinched it for you. Had you lost, it probably wouldn't have changed your decision, but would it have made it tougher to do this?
Jerel Worthy: Definitely. Because first off I would have kind of felt like as far as a bowl win, as far as solidifying ourselves as an elite program, I wouldn't have felt like I'd accomplished that. I wouldn't probably be sitting up here had we lost just because of the simple fact that I felt like I had some more to prove.
Over these last few years, I strived to be the best player I can be for this program. I kind of felt in my heart what better way to go out than having played in the first Big Ten championship game, having beaten Michigan four years in a row, All American, being part of one of the most devastating defenses that's been around Michigan State in quite some time, just being able to experience all the glorious good times that I've had with my teammates.
It's a chapter of my life that I really don't want to close, but at the same time you have to make many decisions in this life and I felt this is one of the best decisions I would have to make as far as moving forward.
It's just something that I'm going to try to handle with integrity, try to handle with the best care and with the best support staff and knowledge of my family and friends, just try to be successful.
I'm going to still support the Spartan Nation no matter where I am across the country. No matter what I'm doing, I'll be a Spartan for the rest of my life. A lot of people can kind of understand how I feel about MSU. I have a tattoo of it, so it's kind of like this is my home. These are going to be my fans and friends for a lifetime. That's what I'm grateful for.
Q. Did you get a grade back from the NFL committee?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes, we did, from the advisory committee, indicating, as I said, that he would be a very high draft choice. I followed that up with calls to specific GMs, people that I knew, people that I trusted as individuals, and also talked to the director of college scouting, different scouts throughout the process, and some coaches.
So we tried to make sure that we crossed all the Ts, dotted the Is, so this was real, that this was something that was going to happen for him. I don't think there's any question he's going to make an NFL team. There's no question about that. But what we want to do is make sure that the dollars are there on the front end there for him if he decides to do this.
It's all of our belief, his family, Jerel and myself, that that's indicated here in this situation.
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