Tuesday morning, a rumor began making the rounds that South Carolina’s Ace Sanders had told at least one person close to him that he was leaving the Gamecocks early for the NFL draft. We put in a call to Joe Kinnan of Manatee High School — Sanders’ father is on Kinnan’s football coaching staff — who told CFT that, the last he had heard, his former player would be returning to Columbia for another season.
Based on the chatter coming from Sanders’ Twitter timeline, that’s not likely to be the case.
In a tweet directed at himself a short time ago, Sanders wrote “welcome to the real world… Time to make it happen!” followed by one in which he speaks in the past tense of his time at the school.
“Day full of emotion for. Thank you everyone apart of #GamecockNation. I appreciate everything you did for me. #TearsOfJoy I love you guys!!!” Sanders wrote, which was followed up by a congratulatory message from former teammate and current Buffalo Bill Stephon Gilmore — “S/o to my homie @AceSanders1 going pro” — that was retweeted by Sanders.
The move would be more than mildly surprising as it had long been thought that he would indeed return for his senior season.
Early-entry paperwork needed to be submitted to the NFL by 4 p.m. this afternoon. The school has not yet confirmed Sanders’ future football intentions, although that seems to be a mere formality at the moment.
Sanders led the Gamecocks in receptions (45) and receiving touchdowns (nine) in 2012, and was one of the most electrifying punt returners at the FBS level. His 14.8 yards-per-return average was good for fourth in the nation, returning two of 29 punts for touchdowns.