MU’s Gabbert elects to go pro

Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert runs out of bounds during a game this season against Colorado at Faurot Field. The junior announced Monday he is making himself eligible for the NFL draft.

Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert runs out of bounds during a game this season against Colorado at Faurot Field. The junior announced Monday he is making himself eligible for the NFL draft. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert has elected to make himself available for the NFL draft.

Gabbert has started the past two years, and is coming off a standout performance in the Insight Bowl, when he was 41-of-57 for 434 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Iowa.

“This is definitely a bittersweet day for me,” Gabbert said in a statement Monday. “I was really looking forward to having a chance to do some special things next season with my teammates, but in the end, this is the right decision to make for myself and my family.

“These last three years have been an unbelievable experience for me, and I’ll miss being at Mizzou, but I’m definitely looking forward to this next stage of my life. “

Various early draft predictions have rated Gabbert as a first-round pick and the secondbest at his position behind Andrew Luck of Stanford.

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said the time was right for Gabbert to go pro.

“We’re very proud of Blaine and how hard he’s worked to put himself in position for this opportunity,” Pinkel said in a statement. “He’s been an outstanding leader for our team.

“It’s been a privilege to coach him and have him as part of our program.”

Missouri totaled 18 victories the last two seasons, and this year’s 10-win season was only the fourth in school history. Gabbert passed for 3,186 yards and 16 touchdowns.

In 31 games at Missouri, Gabbert passed for 6,822 yards, fourth-best in school history.

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander, who led the nation in yards receiving last year for Missouri, called Gabbert a “prototypical quarterback.”

“He’s got the size, the big arm to make every throw,” Alexander said.

Missouri has had three first-round picks the last two years. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon taken with the 19th pick by the Falcons this year, while wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was taken by the Eagles and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood was picked by the Steelers in 2009.

Three other Missouri players — defensive ends Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith, and tight end Michael Egnew — have been evaluated by the NFL to help decide whether to declare.

Freshman James Franklin, Gabbert’s backup this season, is the likely frontrunner to replace him next season. Gabbert’s younger brother, redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert, also is on the roster.

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