'Big Kat' headed for NFL

By Mark Williams Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS _ Andy Katzenmoyer, the first freshman to start at linebacker for Ohio State, will skip his senior season to be available for the NFL draft, a coach said Friday. Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said Katzenmoyer told him that he notified the NFL of his decision. Friday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare their intentions of being included in the draft. Katzenmoyer, a 6-foot-4, 255-pounder known for his jarring hits, is the second Buckeye this week to jump to the pros. On Wednesday, Ohio State's record-setting wide receiver, David Boston, announced he would give up his senior season. The decisions by Katzenmoyer and Boston raised to 12 the number of underclassmen who have given up at least one year of eligibility to throw their names into the NFL draft since 1992. Katzenmoyer didn't tell Pagac why he would not return for his senior season. "He didn't elaborate on his decision. He and his parents talked it over," Pagac said. Katzenmoyer has complained of media coverage and has not spoken to reporters for months. A telephone number for him could not be found, and Ohio State planned no announcement about Katzenmoyer's decision. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello would not say whether Katzenmoyer had declared his intentions to go the pro. He said earlier Friday that the league on Monday would release the list of underclassmen who have declared their eligibility for the draft. Katzenmoyer, dubbed "The Big Kat," became one of the most recognizable Buckeyes after he was selected as the first defensive player to earn Associated Press Mr. Football honors as a senior at suburban Westerville South High School. He asked for and received jersey No. 45. No Buckeye player had worn that number since Archie Griffin wore it to become the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in 1974 and 1975. Katzenmoyer started all 12 games as a freshman for the Buckeyes, recording 23 tackles for negative yardage, including 12 sacks. He also intercepted four passes. Although his numbers fell off somewhat the next two seasons, he was still a first-team All-America selection in 1997 and became the first sophomore to receive the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker. As a junior this past fall, he was dropped to second-team All-Big Ten by the conference coaches behind teammate Na'il Diggs. Pagac said Katzenmoyer will be tough to replace. "He's a great football player. He's a great young man," Pagac said. Katzenmoyer also has been a lightning rod for critics. He was charged and convicted of underage drinking after a policeman saw him with a beer at a bar on his official Ohio State recruiting visit. He paid a $193 fine. Last winter, he was arrested on charges of speeding and drunken driving and pleaded no contest. He paid a $300 fine, his license was suspended for 180 days and he attended three days of alcohol counseling. Just before Ohio State's first game last September, he was able to maintain his eligibility only after passing three summer-session courses: AIDS awareness, music and golf.

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