Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell is headed to the NFL draft after a tireless junior season in which he carried the ball 382 times.
Bell said Thursday he will skip his senior year following a terrific performance as the focal point of the Spartans' offense. He ran for 1,793 yards this season and also caught 32 passes.
"This was the hardest decision of my life," Bell said. "It's difficult to leave my teammates and coaches as well as Spartan Nation, but I couldn't pass on pursuing my dream and the opportunity to change my mom's life."
Michigan State also confirmed that tight end Dion Sims will forgo his senior season to enter the draft.
The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Bell ran for more than 200 yards three times this season, including a 266-yard effort in the regular-season finale at Minnesota that helped Michigan State become bowl eligible.
"It was his physical durability that was most impressive," coach Mark Dantonio said. "As a 20-year-old, Le'Veon faced an extremely difficult decision. While I do believe there was both personal and program value in Le'Veon returning for his senior season, I acknowledge the difficult choice he had to make."
The Spartans (7-6) edged TCU 17-16 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Bell ran for 145 yards and a touchdown in that game.
"I couldn't have written a better script for my final game in a Spartan uniform," Bell said. "I ran the ball well against a great TCU defense, but the most important thing was getting the `W.' It was exciting to celebrate with my teammates one last time and leave on that note."
Larry Caper, the only other Spartan to rush for over 100 yards for the season, was also a senior. Nick Hill, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, had 48 yards on 21 carries.
"Although I'm leaving, Michigan State still has some capable running backs returning, in Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford," Bell said. "Those guys will be running behind a talented and experienced offensive line. Nick and Jeremy are both tough, talented athletes and their time is now."
Sims caught 36 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns this season despite missing three games.
"He's a big target with great hands. With his combination of size and power, Dion is difficult to bring down, so he gains a lot of yards after the catch. He's also a much improved run blocker," Dantonio said. "Although we'll miss Dion in our offense next season, he felt the timing was right and we wish him all the best in his future."