TAMPA, Fla. – From carrying couches to an All-American carrying a football. Now, Big Ten MVP Shonn Greene figures he’s ready for the next level.
The Iowa running back turned Thursday’s Outback Bowl into a farewell party, leading the Hawkeyes past South Carolina 31-10 and then announcing he intends to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
“I don’t think there’s really a lot more I can do here,” Greene said. “People talk about the Heisman, but I think that’s a lot of politics. I don’t like getting caught up in all of that, so I just figure I’ll try my chances.”
Greene ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for more than 100 yards in all 13 of Iowa’s games, scored in all but one, and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back.
“He’s been the same guy each and every week,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, using words like “humble” and “modest” to describe the 235-pound junior, who worked at a furniture store and didn’t play football while attending community college to improve his grades.
Greene, of Sicklerville, N.J., finished with school season records of 1,850 yards and 20 TDs.
Greene, who sat out the 2007 season after losing his scholarship because of academic problems, said earlier this week he planned to meet with his family and consider information from the NFL college advisory committee before making a decision on whether to turn pro. His Outback performance sealed the deal.
“I’m proud of the way he’s handled his recognition and accolades. He’s going to be extremely valuable and a great asset to any team that’s smart enough to take him next year,” Ferentz said.
Iowa (9-4) won for the sixth time in seven games since losing three straight to fall to 3-3. South Carolina (7-6) lost three straight down the stretch while being outscored 118-30.
Greene scored on a pair of 1-yard runs to help Iowa build a 21-0 halftime lead, then added an 11-yarder to make it 31-0 late in the third quarter. South Carolina scored on Chris Smelley’s 10-yard TD pass to Jared Cook and Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
After struggling offensively in lopsided losses to Florida and Clemson, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier decided to start quarterback Stephen Garcia, a highly regarded redshirt freshman from Tampa, Fla., who was the centerpiece of his recruiting class in 2007.
But Garcia, who nearly undermined his career by being arrested twice within his first month on campus, turned the ball over four times in the first half and was replaced by Smelley after going 9 for 18 for 79 yards and three interceptions.
“I thought he would play a little bit better, but maybe he just wasn’t ready,” Spurrier said.
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