Inside the Irish

AP

DeShone Kizer declares for NFL Draft

DeShone Kizer is going pro. Notre Dame’s third-year quarterback, fresh off his team-MVP season, is forgoing his final two years of eligibility and entering the NFL Draft.

Kizer made the announcement via a Bleacher Report video. He’s a candidate to be the first quarterback chosen in the draft, and recently received his grade from the NFL advisory board. A source with knowledge of that grade said Kizer received a first-round evaluation, helping solidify the decision.

It was a move that was expected, but not finalized—at least as recently as Friday night—when Kizer discussed the stay-or-go conundrum. Named one of the team’s seven captains at the annual football banquet, Kizer instead will begin preparations for his professional career, turning the keys to the Irish offense over to Brandon Wimbush.

Head coach Brian Kelly released the following statement.

“DeShone is an extremely gifted quarterback that was faced with a difficult decision,” Kelly said. “He could return as a senior captain at Notre Dame — a place that he loves, and with a program that respects him immensely. Or, he could begin the next chapter in his life and accept the opportunity that likely awaits in the NFL.

“While he chose the latter, the type of leadership DeShone displayed this past season will benefit our program moving forward. He’ll certainly be missed on and off the field, but we’re very happy for him and his family. DeShone will always represent this University with the utmost professionalism and class.”

Kizer released his own statement:

Three years ago, I made a decision to attend the University of Notre Dame. I found a second home and a second family. I made many connections, on and off the field, that changed my life in a positive manner. I’m truly grateful and blessed for everything that I’ve received.

I have an opportunity to continue my football career in the NFL. My family and I have taken the last couple weeks to collect all the necessary information to make a decision that will impact our future. After discussing with my family and coaches, and weighing the pros and cons of remaining at Notre Dame, I believe it’s time to change my path.

I’ve decided to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. I’m ready to accept this challenge.

I want to thank the University of Notre Dame, its fans, my teammates, my coaches and the entire football staff for standing beside me and believing in me throughout my career. I’m a better person today because of this support.

I will forever be Irish at heart.

Even after some struggles this season, Kizer’s departure feels like the logical next step.  But it ignores the amazing ascent he had these past two years. Buried on the depth chart and hitting rock bottom just two springs ago, Kizer finished the Blue-Gold spring game at No. 3 behind Everett Golson and Malik Zaire and was outperformed by walk-on quarterback Montgomery VanGorder in the intrasquad scrimmage, finishing just 1 of 5 for three yards.

But Golson’s departure for Florida State and Zaire’s injury against Virginia threw Kizer into the starting job and he seized that opportunity. His debut season was a phenomenal success, leading the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl and a 10-win season, completing 63 percent of his throws for 21 touchdowns while running for 10 more scores.

With an inexperienced receiving corps and a rebuilt offensive line, Kizer’s accuracy dipped to just under 59 percent in 2016, but he improved his touchdown passes to 26 while cutting his interceptions from 10 to nine. He ran for eight more scores and finishes his career at Notre Dame with 47 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions while scoring 18 times on the ground in two seasons.