MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Exit Sandman.
West Virginia safety Robert Sands will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft. The Daily Mail reported the news Friday after Sands informed the NFL late last week and was letting those close to him know about his move.
WVU confirmed the decision Sunday in a release.
"I believe I have proven myself as a playmaker at the college level, and now it's time for me to turn my attention to the professional level and prove myself once again," Sands said.
Sands thanked teammates, coaches, trainers, managers, the sports information staff, the fans and his mother, Veronica.
"I wish only the best for the University and the Mountaineer football family in the future, and I always will continue to show my support," Sands said.
Sands, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound native of Miami, said before the Champs Sports Bowl he would enter the draft if he was projected to be a first- or second-round pick and would return to school if the NFL said he would be taken in the third round or later.
First-team all-Big East after his sophomore and junior seasons, Sands totaled 143 tackles, six interceptions, three sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss in his career. He was named first-team All-America by The Sporting News last month.
"He has been an integral part of our success, and I want to thank him for everything he has done for Mountaineer football," Coach Bill Stewart said in the release.
Sands, who played through shoulder and knee pain all season, made 53 tackles after recording 65 in 2009. He went from five interceptions as a sophomore to one as a junior.
"I feel like I could have made more plays, that I didn't do enough, that I could have helped my team more than I did," he said before getting eight tackles and a sack in the bowl loss to North Carolina State. "I experienced a lot of lonely games. A lot of lonely games. There's not much action going on back there when teams scheme against you."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.