PHILADELPHIA -- Temple running back Bernard Pierce will not return for his senior season and will declare for the NFL draft.
Pierce told The Associated Press his decision late Thursday night.
"I've done what I could do for the team. I broke every record at the school and I would go back to basically have a better season," Pierce said. "I'm ready to start a new area in my life, and I have to take care of myself and my family."
Helping to turn the Owls from one of the one worst programs in college football into a consistent bowl team, Pierce rushed for 3,570 yards over his three-year career with a school-record 52 touchdowns. He rushed for 100 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns in Temple's 37-15 New Mexico Bowl victory over Wyoming in December.
Pierce says he's leaving because he's accomplished all he wanted at Temple. He says he will train in Atlanta and intends to return to Temple to complete his degree.
He burst onto the scene as a freshman, rushing for 1,361 yards and 16 scores. Temple promoted Pierce as a Heisman Trophy contender as a sophomore. The Owls even started a campaign on billboards and advertisements at bus and train stops around the city to promote Pierce and then launched www.pierce4heisman.com. But he was hurt and never lived up to the hype.
Pierce came back strong as a junior, though, rushing for 1,481 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Owls closed with three straight wins to end the regular season, including a 34-16 win over Kent State in the finale on Nov. 25, before handling the Cowboys in New Mexico.
"I want to make my mother proud. That was a big part of this decision to leave now," he said. "I want to give her back what she gave me, first and foremost. I'm going to train now in Atlanta, and then come back in the summer to finish school. But this has always been a dream of mine to do this, and I'm glad of the opportunity I got at Temple.
"I'm ready to begin a new chapter of my life."