Fairley, a consensus All-American who won the Lombardi Award, announced at Williamson High School in Mobile that he will forgo his senior season and enter this April's NFL draft.
"I was just thinking on the season, finishing undefeated, won the national championship, won the SEC, won the Lombardi," Fairley said, "I was thinking, what more could I accomplish going back for my senior year?"
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Fairley could go as high as No. 1 in the draft. Scouts Inc. has Fairley, who will turn 23 on Jan. 23, as the No. 2 overall draft eligible player on its list. ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have Fairley going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.
Fairley doesn't care where he gets drafted.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "As long as it's not cold."
Fairley, who transferred to Auburn from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in 2009, had mostly a reserve role his first year in Auburn, finishing with 28 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
But he thrived this season, emerging as an inside force. He finished with 60 tackles, a school-record 24 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks, leading the SEC in the latter two categories.
Fairley had five tackles, three TFLs, a sack and a forced fumble in Auburn's 22-19 BCS title game victory against Oregon, earning defensive MVP honors.