Slaton picking NFL over West Virginia

Posted: January 14, 2008

Steve Slaton ran for 3,923 yards and scored 55 touchdowns in 3 years at West Virginia. He was the MVP of the 2006 Sugar Bowl after rushing for 204 yards on 26 carries and scoring three touchdowns when WVU upset Georgia. He finished fourth behind Troy Smith, Darren McFadden and Brady Quinn in the voting for the 2006 Heisman Trophy.

The former Conwell-Egan star from Levittown has run for his last college yard and scored his last touchdown.

Last night, Slaton told the Daily News that he is going to declare for the NFL draft.

"This was a very tough decision, but it's for the better," Slaton said. "I have loved being at West Virginia. I appreciate all the people on campus who are giving me support and saying they understand.

"I do know the thought is out there that I'm 'giving up' on West Virginia. I hope people can come around to not thinking like that. I have so much invested in this place. It made me what I am and you never forget the people that started you on your way."

Yesterday afternoon, Carl Slaton, Steve's father, told the Daily News that the family is hearing from NFL people that Steve is being projected as a second-round selection. But, Carl said, "the NFL draft is a crapshoot."

Carl said it was not an easy decision, but, in the end, "it was pushed on him with [WVU coach Rich] Rodriguez leaving [for Michigan] and taking the whole coaching staff."

According to Steve, the departure of offensive coordinator/running backs coach Calvin Magee had the biggest impact on his decision. Magee will become Rodriguez' offensive coordinator at Michigan.

"More than anything else it's that [Magee] also left the program," Steve said. "He taught me so much of what I needed to know, and he wasn't finished, and he would have taught me the rest. It wouldn't have been the same under someone else."

Slaton's carries went down dramatically last year and he was virtually ignored in the second half of the team's meltdown home loss against Pittsburgh that cost them a shot at the BCS championship game.

Instead, the Mountaineers went to the Fiesta Bowl where they routed Oklahoma, 48-28, on Jan. 2.

"It [the decision] has mostly been brewing since after the [bowl] game," Steve Slaton said. "I tried not to think about it before that."

According to Carl Slaton, his son didn't want to return under a entirely new coaching staff.

"If he went back, he would have to learn a new system and the coaches coming in now, they are looking toward the future," Carl said. "And the way it played out last year . . . "

Slaton ran for 1,128 yards as a freshman and 1,744 as a sophomore. Last year, he ran for 1,051 yards and 17 more touchdowns, but his carries decreased dramatically as the year went on.

"[Rodriguez] just took everything away from Steven," Carl said.

So, with that and the new coaching staff, the Slatons looked really hard at the NFL.

"It was nerve-racking, a lot of sleepless nights and second guessing," Carl said of the decision.

But the decision has been made. Steve was packing up yesterday in Morgantown. He is heading home today on the way to his future. *

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