Former Irish quarterback Blair Kiel died Sunday at the age of 50. He reportedly suffered what is believed to be a heart attack while at a relative’s home for Easter and was rushed to the hospital, but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Leaving Notre Dame as the school record holder for passes attempted, not to mention a career average of over 40 yards a punt, Kiel spent a combined five seasons in the NFL with the Buccaneers, who drafted him in the 11th round, the Colts and the Packers.
Here’s the official release from University of Notre Dame:
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former University of Notre Dame quarterback and punter Blair Kiel, who finished his Irish football career having attempted more passes than anyone in Notre Dame history, died of natural causes Sunday afternoon in Columbus, Ind. He was 50.
A Columbus, Ind., product, Kiel played for the Irish from 1980-83 and started all or major parts of all four seasons, qualifying him as the first four-year starter for Notre Dame at the quarterback position since Gus Dorais in 1910-13.
He completed 297 career throws (only Terry Hanratty with 304 had completed more at the time Kiel finished his college career) on 609attempts for 3,650 yards, 17 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. He also punted 260 times for a 40.67-yard average that ranked second only behind Bill Shakespeare’s 40.71-yard mark (Kiel set a Notre Dame career mark with his 10,534 punting yards). Kiel also rushed 165 times for 164 career yards and five TDs.
Kiel came on the scene for the final offensive series of Notre Dame’s epic 1980 29-27 win over Michigan, led the Irish on the final drive that produced Harry Oliver’s game-winning field goal–and held onto the starting signal-calling job most of the remainder of his Irish career.
As a freshman in 1980, Kiel led the Irish to the number-one ranking and a Sugar Bowl matchup with top-rated Georgia. For the season he completed 48 of 124 throws for 531 yards. He also rushed 71 times for 148 yards and three TDs—and he played more minutes in 1980 (250) than any freshman Notre Dame quarterback since Dorais.
As a sophomore in ’81 he completed 67 of 151 for 936 yards and seven TDs—to go with 31 rushes for 53 yards and one TD. In 1982 as a junior Kiel connected on 118 of 219 passes for 1,273 yards and three TDs. His .539 completion percentage that year ranked fourth all-time at that point in the Notre Dame records. As a senior in ’83, Kiel hit 64 of 115 passes for 910 yards and seven TDs.
In the 1982 opener (the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium) against Michigan, Kiel completed 15 of 22 passes for 141 yards in the 23-17 Irish win. Then in the season finale at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Kiel completed 11 of 19 passes for 151 yards in the 19-18 Irish victory. He also helped the Irish to a win that season over number-one-ranked and unbeaten Pittsburgh.
Kiel set the record for the longest pass completion in Notre Dame history – a 96-yarder to Joe Howard against Georgia Tech in 1981.
He was a former prep all-star at Columbus East (Ind.) High School, throwing for 4,214 yards and leading East to a state title as a senior in 1979.
An 11th-round pick of the NFL Tampa Bay Bucs in 1984, Kiel played for Tampa in 1984-85, Indianapolis in 1986-87 and Green Bay in 1988 (he played in one game that season) and also in 1990 and 1991. He also was listed on Canadian Football League rosters in Saskatchewan (1989) and Toronto (1992) and an Arena Football League roster with Cincinnati (1993).
Blair Kiel’s nephew, Gunner Kiel, is a freshman quarterback on the 2012 Notre Dame football roster.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.
The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.
The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry and six scores in 2014.
Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.
The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.
Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.
The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.
Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.
“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”
Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.
Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.
“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”
That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.
If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)
Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.
“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”
Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.
In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.
Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.
Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.