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Mizzou’s Aldon Smith latest to take NFL plunge

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The cavalcade of top players heading to the NFL continued this evening as it was announced that Missouri lost yet another big-time starter to the draft.

Standout defensive end Aldon Smith has decided to bypass his final two years of eligibility and will make himself available for the 2011 NFL Draft.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Mizzou for supporting me,” said Smith.  “The coaches, our fans and alumni, everyone has been great, and they’ve definitely helped me get to this point.  It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember to play in the NFL, so this is something I’m really excited for,” he said.

“There’s no question that Aldon is one of the most gifted athletes in the country at his position,” head coach Gary Pinkel said.  “We’d love to have the chance to coach him longer, but we’re 100 percent behind him and supportive with this decision.  Aldon gave us three outstanding years, and it’s going to be exciting to watch him in the pros, because his best football is ahead of him.”

Smith set a school record with 11.5 sacks in 2009.  His production in 2010 dipped due to an injury that cost him the first three games of the year, but the redshirt sophomore still finished with 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

Smith’s teammate, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, announced earlier this week that he too was heading to the NFL.

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