CHAMPAIGN – The decision has been made. Mikel Leshoure is entering the NFL draft. He said so Tuesday.
"I believe I have accomplished everything I can at the college level and want to go after my dream: playing in the NFL," Leshoure said.
Though initial mock drafts list Leshoure as high as midway in the first round, he's got some work to do. Lots of it. Starting today.
Leshoure will begin training immediately in Arizona, working out with other NFL prospects.
"No. 1, I've got to dedicate myself to my workouts," Leshoure said. "I have to get better."
Leshoure talked to former Illini in the NFL about both the decision to enter the draft and what comes next.
"They told me that I'm not going to have any strength and conditioning coaches calling you, telling you you need to be here," Leshoure said. "You're on your own. It's up to me to put the work in. I'm a man now. It's all on me whether I succeed or fail."
The training is part fun, part drudgery. But necessary.
"I know it's going to be tough work," Leshoure said. "It's going to be a grind. But it's nothing that I haven't done in my career. I'm excited for it."
He is expected to receive an invitation to the NFL Combine, scheduled for Feb. 23 to March 1 at Indianapolis. Running backs report on Feb. 24 and will tested, checked by doctors, interviewed by teams and the media and have workouts in front of the scouts and general managers.
"I've got to be as relaxed as I can, as calm as I can," Leshoure said. "I have to be as confident as I can be."
Leshoure has no idea what his time is in the 40-yard dash, which is considered critical to running back prospects. He was last timed as a high school junior, when he ran a 4.52.
"I can only imagine it will be a lot faster," Leshoure said.
Leshoure hasn't hired an agent. That process, he said, should be done soon.
"I think it's kind of like recruiting," Leshoure said. "You're going to weigh your options and get as much information as you can."
The NFL labor situation, with a potential lockout by the owners during the spring, didn't influence Leshoure's decision. And it won't be in his head as he moves toward the draft.
Leshoure said he isn't worried about the other running backs in the 2011 draft. Alabama's Mark Ingram has already entered and is considered a likely first-round pick.
"I've never been the type to look into the newspapers or on the Internet and follow up on guys," Leshoure said. "I do know my competition and that's all I need to know."