North Carolina’s Elijah Hood changes mind, will enter NFL draft

Elijah Hood (34) ends his North Carolina career with 2,580 yards, ninth all-time in program history.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Hood has had a change of heart after announcing that he was returning to North Carolina for one more season.

The junior running back announced Friday that he is leaving the school and will enter this spring’s NFL draft.

“This was a difficult decision, but after gathering more information and talking with my family, I believe it is in my best interest to declare for the NFL Draft and pursue my dream of being a professional football player,” Hood said. “While I’ll miss playing with my teammates in Chapel Hill, I’m excited about my future opportunity. I would like to thank Coach Fedora, the coaching staff and all Carolina fans for understanding how difficult it was to come to this decision. This program is on the rise because of the great people at UNC. I’m going to continue to pursue my degree from UNC and I’m proud to say I will always be a Tar Heel.”

Hood ran for 2,580 yards in his career — ninth all-time in Tar Heels history — and is tied for sixth at North Carolina with 29 rushing touchdowns.

He ran for 1,463 yards and 17 TDs on 219 carries as a sophomore, but took a step back in production and attempts in 2016 with 858 and eight scores on 145 tries. Hood went over 100 yards three times, including two in his last eight games of the season.

Hood sat out the Sun Bowl due to an undisclosed medical reason, but at the time said “I look forward to returning to the field in 2017 for my senior year and having the opportunity to represent UNC along with my teammates.”

Instead, he joins a deep group of running backs leaving school early, among them Pitt’s James Conner, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, Clemson’s Wayne Gallman, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.

With Hood gone and T.J. Logan and Khris Francis have exhausted their eligibility, Jordon Brown is the Tar Heels’ leading returning rusher among RBs with 20 attempts for 45 yards and a TD.

Larry Fedora has two running backs so far in this recruiting class in three-stars Michael Carter of Navarre, Fla., and Clarksville, Tenn.’s Antwuan Branch.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.’ are now available.