Former Auburn football player Mike McNeil pleaded guilty to robbery right as jury selection was slated to begin.
After a request to change his attorney was denied last week, McNeil arrived for his first day of trial ready to make a deal.
Without his characteristic dreadlocks, McNeil looked solemn as he approached the bench with attorney Ben Hand to plead guilty to robbery in the first degree.
In 2011 he and three fellow players were accused of the armed robbery of other students.
Antonio Goodwin has already been sentenced to 15 years but McNeil claims it was all a misunderstanding.
Hand says, "What could be possible portrayed as a prank, ended up very bad. He was distressed about it. Anytime you're facing going to prison, that's tough, but he understood what the law was and he understood what could happen."
The 15-year "split" deal will put McNeil behind bars for three years with another three years of probation. The remaining 12 years of his sentence will be waived as long as he's on good behavior.
Hand says McNeil entered the "best interest" plea because although he maintains his innocence, he thought a jury would convict him.
"He felt like there was enough evidence to convict him and the risk of what a mandatory sentence would be," says Hand. "Mandatory sentence on an armed robbery starts at 21, so the risk of a conviction versus the three years that they offered him was far outweighing the risk of going to trial."
The plea comes after last week's Roopstigo.com article in which McNeil was quoted making claims that Auburn University essentially cut him off after the charges were filed. He was also quoted calling the football team a business that pays for what they want, including players.
Other players were quoted in the article but have since denied the statements. Hand adds, "From what I read in the article, I believe [Selena Roberts] was pretty accurate in what I said. Mine was relating to the trial. I didn't have any input as to what the other players had said."
Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley are still awaiting their trial dates. McNeil has agreed to testify truthfully if the District Attorney calls on him in those cases.
The DA had no comment because other cases are still pending. Hand says McNeil said goodbye to his little girl last night.