Former ND tight end John Carlson retires

IRISH STEW

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

The end of John Carlson’s NFL road came Tuesday, self-imposed and on his own terms.

The 30-year-old former Notre Dame tight end announced his retirement before his eighth pro season and second with the Arizona Cardinals could gain much traction. The Litchfield, Minn., product had been going through strength and conditioning sessions with the team.

"After much thought and consideration, my wife Danielle and I know that this is best decision for us," Carlson said in a statement on the team’s website.

"I was blessed to play seven seasons in the NFL for three tremendous organizations — the Cardinals, Vikings and Seahawks. I will always treasure the experiences and relationships made during that time, but I'm also very excited about the next phase of my life and what's ahead."

The 6-foot-6, 248-pound Carlson garnered 210 receptions, 2,256 yards and 15 touchdowns in a career that lost the 2011 season to injury and ended with him as the Cardinals’ No. 1 tight end. His departure creates an opportunity for fellow ND product Troy Niklas, who will be a second-year tight end with the Cardinals in 2015.

Carlson, who played briefly with the Irish men’s basketball team, was a big part of Notre Dame’s ascending football reputation as Tight End U., and in more ways than you might think.

He was the second of now six straight Irish starting tight ends to be drafted into the NFL, going in the second round to Seattle in 2008. But after his graduation to the league, Carlson mentored a young Kyle Rudolph from a distance.

And when Irish standout Tyler Eifert strongly pondered entering the draft after his junior season, Carlson was one of the voices Eifert said convinced him to stay for what turned out to be a magical season for the Irish in 2012.

Eifert, in the process, improved his draft stock from a third-round projection, provided to him for the NFL Draft Advisory Board, to become a first-round selection of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ben Koyack became the sixth player in the Tight End U., lineage, when Jacksonville on Saturday selected him in the seventh round.

Even tight ends who transferred from Notre Dame in recent years found their way to the NFL, including Will Yeatman (Houston), a former lacrosse star as well who’s morphed into an offensive tackle and finished collegiately at Maryland; Joseph Fauria (Detroit), who landed at UCLA; and Konrad Reuland (Baltimore), who wound up at Stanford after spending a year at junior college after leaving ND.

Carlson , who played with Seattle and Minnesota as well, signed a two-year, $4.65 million contract with the Cardinals on March 7, 2014. In his only season in Arizona, Carlson had 33 receptions for 350 yards and a touchdown, playing in all 16 games. He had at least one catch in each game.

Former Notre Dame tight end John Carlson, here playing against Stanford in 2007, announced his retirement from pro football on Tuesday.