NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Friday he will give up his senior season of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.
The school announced McCoy's decision in a news release, just hours before McCoy, a human relations major, was scheduled to participate in a graduation ceremony. McCoy plans to complete his degree through online courses in the spring.
McCoy, a second-team All-America selection, wasn't available to speak to reporters Friday, but said in a statement that he made his decision around midseason when he realized he would have enough credits to graduate.
"Graduation was my main goal and once I knew I had that accomplished, I wanted to look at playing in the NFL," he said. "I accomplished almost everything I wanted to get done here and it has been very positive with my teammates, the coaches, the fans, everyone."
McCoy said he plans to hire an agent after the Sooners play No. 19 Stanford in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas, and start preparing for the NFL combine.
McCoy, who is from Oklahoma City, was one of four high-profile players who last year opted to return to the Sooners after their loss to Florida in the BCS championship game. Quarterback Sam Bradford -- last year's Heisman Trophy winner -- and tight end Jermaine Gresham have also announced that they'll be entering the NFL draft. Bradford missed all but three games this season due to a shoulder injury and Gresham was out the entire season with a knee injury.
The Sooners struggled as a result of their absence, finishing 7-5 despite a sometimes dominating defense led by McCoy, who has 31 tackles, including 14 1/2 for loss, and five sacks.
Entering the Sun Bowl, the 6-foot-4, 297-pound McCoy has started 39 straight games for Oklahoma -- a school record for defensive tackles -- and 80 career tackles, including 32 for loss, and 13 1/2 sacks.
Coach Bob Stoops said in a statement that McCoy made the right decision to enter the draft.
"Gerald is a great example of how to be a student-athlete," Stoops said. "He came here, took care of his academic responsibilities, invested himself in the lives of others and had a great career on the field."
McCoy said he someday hopes to open a facility in Oklahoma City for people who have been evicted and need a home. He would name it after his mother, Patricia, who died before McCoy began playing for the Sooners.
"I want to help get one of those built in her name," he said. "I also want to be involved with a community center for kids. Children will be my main focus."
Two other members of Oklahoma's defense, cornerback Dominique Franks and defensive tackle Adrian Taylor, have indicated they will bypass the draft and return to the Sooners next season.