Jan 5, 2014, 11:51 PM EDT
Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt has played his final game for Notre Dame. The Irish’s star defensive end told Sports Illustrated that he will declare for the NFL Draft, leaving after three seasons in South Bend.
Tuitt led the Irish in sacks in 2013 with 7.5, a season after totaling 12, the second best single-season output in school history. The 6-foot-6, 322-pound defensive end reportedly received a second round draft grade from the NFL’s advisory committee, slightly dampening the expectations that the Georgia native was a sure-fire first round pick.
Still, there is no hesitation from Tuitt, who confirmed the decision via Twitter:
Thanks for a wonderful three years at the best University on earth. I will forever be IRISH.—
stephon tuitt (@DOCnation_7) January 06, 2014
In his conversation with SI.com’s Brian Hamilton, Tuitt talked about the decision to leave Notre Dame, a choice he obviously wrestled with, considering he announced his intent to return for his senior season during an interview with the student newspaper midseason.
“I’m ready to take my game to another level,” Tuitt told SI.com. “All I did was work out pros and cons, and that helped me realize I have more pros than cons and I’m ready to go. I’m comfortable and confident and I’m ready to take this step for me.”
Tuitt isn’t completely ready. Per Hamilton’s report, he has not selected an agent nor finalized a workout plan, two important decisions as the countdown to the NFL Scouting Combine in late February has already begun. Tuitt also promised his mother that he’d finish his degree, though that course work would be put on hold for now.
“I would like to say I thank Notre Dame for everything that they did for me, I love that school, I love that program,” Tuitt told SI.com. “I had an awesome three years there. The coaches, the fans, I couldn’t ask for much better people than them. They made my game experience the best time of my life. I’ll always be Irish.”