COLUMBIA -- Ace Sanders has stepped back from his decision nearly as quickly as he did during so many of his punt returns.
Sanders, South Carolina's junior punt returner and wide receiver that was named SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year and MVP of the Outback Bowl, won't be returning to the Gamecocks next year after all.
Sanders - or someone on Sanders' Instagram account - posted a picture a week ago of Sanders during a game, with the phrase, "1 More Year!!"
While Sanders himself never confirmed that it was he that posted the photo, a source close to the team directly confirmed to GamecockCentral.com that evening that Sanders, plus the rest of the Gamecocks' draft-eligible players, had discussed it and decided to come back to school.
It was the same night that Alabama whipped Notre Dame for the national championship and the source said that the players had gotten behind the idea of playing in that game in 2014.
While neither of the other players (defensive end Chaz Sutton and cornerback Victor Hampton are two of the known players who applied for projections from the NFL Underclassman Advisory Committee) received a grade as high as Sanders did, they were all thought to be of the same mind. An NFL draft analyst told GamecockCentral.com that Sanders had received a projection of second or third round for the upcoming draft.
With that, Sanders had second thoughts, despite the vow he took with his teammates. The whispers of Sanders changing his mind began to circulate on Tuesday, which was the last day that players could declare for the NFL Draft. While Sanders' locker at USC was still set up as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sanders began to post messages on his Twitter account on Tuesday evening.
The most telling was, "Day full of emotion for (sic). Thank you everyone apart of#GamecockNation. I appreciate everything you did for me.#TearsOfJoy I love you guys!!!" Teammates had been congratulating Sanders for his earlier messages.
Stephon Gilmore later Tweeted his congratulations for "S/o to my homie @AceSanders1 going pro." It was re-Tweeted by Sanders.
A source close to the team confirmed that the rumor was true on Tuesday night. Sanders will enter the NFL Draft after all. He has until Friday to change his mind and come back to school, provided he hasn't signed with an agent.