Ellington declares for NFL draft

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - One of South Carolina's most prolific athletes is making an early exit.

Bruce Ellington will skip his final seasons of basketball and football and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

Ellington, who graduated last month, will start training for the draft and not return to the basketball team for the remainder of this season.

"I would like to thank Coach Spurrier, Coach Horn and Coach Martin for giving me the opportunity to play both football and basketball at South Carolina," said Ellington. "I also want to thank all the Gamecock fans and my teammates for the past four years in Columbia. It's been a great experience and I've been truly blessed."

Ellington, who caught six passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass in Wednesday's Capital One Bowl, met with basketball coach Frank Martin Friday morning to break the news.

"I'm extremely happy for Bruce and the decision that he is making," Martin said on Friday. "He's a winner and he is going to utilize this as taking the first step of the next chapter of his life. All of us at South Carolina should be ecstatic that a young man his age has given so much of himself to represent this university athletically, socially and academically in a first-class way."

Ellington played in three basketball games last month while the football team was on break before its bowl game, and was expected to return as he has done in previous seasons. He finishes his basketball career with a career average of 11.3 points per game over 80 career games. He scored a career-high 31 points against Furman as an All-SEC freshman.

On the football field, the five-foot-nine, 196-pounder from Moncks Corner, led the Gamecocks with 49 cathces for 775 yards and eight touchdowns this past season. Ellington finished his football career with 106 catches for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns, seventh on South Carolina's all-time list.

Ellington's presence in the locker room in both football and basketball, may be missed even more than his production. Frank Martin routinely praised Ellington's work ethic, commitment and leadership qualities during the two seasons he coached him.

"Whatever he does, he's got a friend for life in me," Martin said last month when asked about the possiblity of Ellington entering the NFL Draft. "The commitment he's made to this program is unparalleled, at least in my time here."

Ellington joins Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, and cornerback Victor Hampton as the four South Carolina juniors who have declared for the NFL Draft,