One week after it was reported that University of Miami star running back Mark Walton had signed with an agent to forgo his senior season and turn pro, Walton confirmed as much in a heartfelt post on Twitter.
A season-ending ankle injury sustained at Florida State on Oct. 7 ultimately ended the junior’s college career.
“As many of you may have already heard, I have decided to pursue my dream and enter the 2018 NFL draft,” Walton tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. “I gave everything I have to the University of Miami over the past three years and have learned many life lessons that I will cherish forever.
“I’d like to thank Coach [Mark] Richt, Coach [Thomas] Brown and the entire staff here for believing in my ability and for the opportunity to take part in this outstanding program. Not only did they help me become a better football player, but they also helped me to become a better version of myself. To my teammates who have stood by me, thank you for the hard efforts that collectively have made us the success we’ve been this season. Lastly, I’d like to thank the fans for always supporting us through the good times and the bad.
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“I am excited to begin this next chapter of my life and I hope you all continue to support me on this journey.
“The U is back. Go Canes.
“Mark Walton #1.’’
Walton, arguably the Hurricanes’ most valuable player and one of the elite runners nationally, is the father of an almost 10-month-old baby girl, Ma’Lani, whom he needs to support, as well as other young family members. His mother died March 2 after a stroke that put her in the hospital in late February. His father died when he was 7.
Walton totaled 2,006 career rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in three seasons — actually, about two-and-a-third seasons in actual playing time — at UM.
He also caught 56 passes for 624 yards and two touchdowns.
This season he rushed for 428 yards and three touchdowns in four games, ranking third at that time in the ACC with 107 rushing yards per game.
His 9.1 yards-per-carry average entering the FSU game ranked second in the nation and his 134.3 rushing yards per game ranked fifth nationally.
He was carted off the field at Doak Campbell Stadium with 5:35 left after making a 7-yard rush.
UM sophomore Travis Homer took over for Walton and has gained 908 yards and seven touchdowns on 151 carries.
Quarterback Malik Rosier has added 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground, with freshman DeeJay Dallas rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.
The Canes (10-2) meet Wisconsin (12-1), who have the nation’s No. 1 defense and No. 2 rushing defense, at 8 p.m. Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium in the Orange Bowl.