University of Missouri sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith (Raytown, Mo.) has decided to make himself available for the 2011 NFL Draft. Smith will bypass his final two seasons of eligibility at Mizzou, following his three years on campus which saw him develop into one of the most talented defensive ends in the nation.

After redshirting in 2008, Smith burst onto the national scene as a redshirt freshman in 2009, when he won 1st-Team Freshman All-American honors, as well as Big 12 Conference Defensive Freshman and Newcomer of the Year, while amassing an MU single-season record 11.5 quarterback sacks. His 2010 season was hampered by a leg injury which kept him out of three games in the first half of the year, but he returned in time to grab a key interception in his first game back against #1-ranked Oklahoma which helped Mizzou post a 36-27 win over the Sooners in Columbia.

In 10 games in 2010, Smith had 48 total tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 quarterback sacks. He opened his sophomore season with an impressive outing in a 23-13 win over Illinois, when he notched 10 tackles, including three tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks. Smith was named 1st-Team All-Big 12 by league coaches for his play in 2010, and his 17 career sacks ties him for sixth-best on the MU charts.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Mizzou for supporting me,” said Smith. “The coaches, our fans and alumni, everyone has been great, and they’ve definitely helped me get to this point. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember to play in the NFL, so this is something I’m really excited for,” he said.

Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel said that he is supportive of Smith’s decision.

“There’s no question that Aldon is one of the most gifted athletes in the country at his position,” Pinkel said. “We’d love to have the chance to coach him longer, but we’re 100 percent behind him and supportive with this decision. Aldon gave us three outstanding years, and it’s going to be exciting to watch him in the pros, because his best football is ahead of him,” he said.