LB commit Jack Kiser motivated to prove he belongs at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

When Jack Kiser attended Notre Dame’s season opener against Temple last September, he had no idea if the Irish coaching staff planned on pursuing him as a recruit.

As the three-star linebacker tells it, he hadn’t received much interest from Notre Dame at that point.

“It was mostly just a one-way street,” Kiser said.

Plenty changed in the coming nine months. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea offered Kiser in May. Kiser followed that up on Tuesday by announcing his verbal commitment to the Irish.

It would have been easy for Notre Dame’s coaching staff to overlook Kiser, a linebacker prospect who doesn’t play a lot of linebacker for a football program in Indiana’s lowest classification. But Lea continued to evaluate Kiser while being honest about the process.

“When I went there for the junior day in March, we sat down and he went over what he liked about me, but his big issue was that I play quarterback and safety,” Kiser said. “I haven’t played linebacker every snap. I have played linebacker, but it’s not something I do every down. He really just wanted to see me move in person, work out and really see what I can do.”

The plan was for the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Kiser to attend Notre Dame’s Elite Skills Camp on June 6. That changed when Lea made a trip down to Royal Center (Ind.) Pioneer in May and offered after watching Kiser work out.

But in the same way Lea had patiently evaluated Kiser, Kiser wanted to do the same with Notre Dame. He scheduled another campus visit later that month to compare the Irish with his other offers.

“I really wanted to do my research and do my process and not just move them to the top because of the name of the school,” Kiser said. “I did the same process I did with every school — with Purdue, with Iowa — and I found that Notre Dame was the school for me. It’s going to be the best school for my future, and it presents the best opportunities for me.”

Kiser has made the most of his opportunities as a high school athlete. In leading Pioneer to the Class A state championship last season, Kiser threw for 1,193 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 1,964 yards and 38 touchdowns. On defense, he added 100 tackles, eight interceptions and 7.5 tackles for a loss.

Kiser also qualified for the state championship track meet with a regional title in shot put (54-feet, 3 inches) and runner-up in discus (166-11).

The athleticism is a Kiser family trait. His father, Aaron, and uncle, Brian, threw shot put and discus at Purdue. His mother, Deborah, played high school softball at Penn.

His two older brothers, Bryce and Sam, starred as football players at Pioneer too. Bryce went on to play at FCS-level Illinois State. Older sister, Madison, runs cross country and track at Louisville.

So naturally Jack Kiser developed into a star athlete himself with a chance to outshine them all. He embraces any doubt that’s cast on him for being from a town with a population of 861

“It’s definitely a chip on my shoulder,” Kiser said. “Being a small-town kid, you really don’t get the attention that a lot of big city schools do. At the same time, I take a ton of pride in it. I’m doing something that very few do coming from a small town.”

“It’s a harder road, a harder path. But in the end, it’s going to be worth it. I’m going to play with a chip on my shoulder, because I’m the kid around cornfields. At the end of the day, you have to work hard and get the job done.”

National recruiting services have given Kiser tepid reviews. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit, the No. 38 outside linebacker and No. 579 overall in the 2019 class. Rivals also rates him as a three-star recruit but didn’t include Kiser among the top 45 outside linebackers.

Lea has been aggressive in recruiting linebackers since arriving at Notre Dame. He signed four linebackers in the 2018 class and has already gained verbal commitments from Kiser and four-star recruit Osita Ekwonu in the 2019 class.

Kiser will have the chance to prove he belongs soon enough.

“The big thing that coach Lea said was that he’s not recruiting me because I’m an Indiana kid,” Kiser said. “He’s recruiting me because I’m good enough to play at Notre Dame, and I can help the team”

“I didn’t want to be that Rudy story, where it’s just a feel-good story. I wanted to feel like I deserve to be on the team.”

Three-star linebacker Jack Kiser, a 2019 recruit, announced a verbal commitment to Notre Dame on June 12.