Fourth-year Tar Heel Aleric Mullins has decided to move on this season and graduate in the spring, giving himself an opportunity to enter the 2010 NFL Draft. This past Saturday he was recognized with the other UNC seniors prior to his last home game against Miami.
"Aleric needs three hours to graduate this spring," said UNC head coach Butch Davis. "It's a similar situation to Richard Quinn that with the completion of his degree that he (Mullins) felt it was time to finish his career and make himself eligible for any post-collegiate professional opportunities that might be available."
"Me and Coach Davis had a couple of conversations about it, and I just stressed to him that I've been here four years and I've enjoyed my time here, but it's time to move on. It's my time," said Mullins on Tuesday. "Like I told him (Coach Davis), 'I love this place. The University has been good to me, and it's time to move on."
Mullins, who only needs to take one class during the spring, indicated that he plans to engage in some kind of professional Training Academy similar to the one that Hakeem Nicks participated in last year in Florida prior to the NFL Draft, but the senior tackle said he does plan to complete his degree this spring.
"I only need one more class and I'll be able to graduate in May, in the spring. It (graduating) really is nothing that big. It's something I'm going to do---I've got to do," Mullins said.
"Yeah, I plan on doing something like that (a Training Academy), but it's a long ways off. We've still got two more games, so most of the focus now is Boston College," Mullins added.
The big defensive tackle admitted that the decision to move on after this season has added a little extra jump in his step in practice.
"Oh yeah, most definitely (I'm more motivated now I'm leaving)," Mullins said. "A lot of these guys I've been with for four years, and you just want to go out there and have fun and win for these guys, because this will be the last time I play with a lot of these guys. I just want to make the most of it."
While Mullins knows that these next few games are in so many ways going to help determine his Draft standing, he's trying to stay focused on the team concept and not try to do too much to impress pro scouts.
"Like a lot of people say, the tape never lies. You want to play good, not only for yourself but for your team," Mullins said. "You've got to put the team first. Like Coach Davis says all the time, 'What can you do to help this team?' So I go to every game and look at what I can do to help this team, and that's just fly to the ball and do my job."
Carolina's defense has been playing at a very high level since its second half collapse against Florida State back in October, but Mullins says nothing has really changed over the past few weeks other than perhaps an increase in focus.
"We've been focused. We're not looking ahead to other games. We're taking it one game at a time," Mullins said. "As a defense we want to get better every week, and since Florida State we have gotten better every week, from my standpoint. Nothing has really changed. We still fly around and make plays, man. We're just focused."
"As a defense, you've got to look at it like the game is on our backs," Mullins added. "We carry this team. We want to have that mindset going out there. This is our team, so we've got to go out there and do whatever we have to do to win."