Notre Dame commit Jack Kiser ready for next challenge after being named Mr. Football

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

There’s nothing left for Jack Kiser to accomplish in high school.

Kiser, a four-year starter for Royal Center (Ind.) Pioneer, and Notre Dame’s 2019 linebacker commit, received perhaps his most impressive honor Wednesday when he became the first Class 1A player to garner Mr. Football honors in IndyStar’s 26 years of presenting the award.

Yet, what excites him about stepping foot on ND’s campus in January is the cloak of anonymity it will bring.

“Nobody is going to care if I’m Mr. Football or if I’m just from this small, 1A town that nobody knows,” Kiser said. “I’m going to be just like everyone else and all the other freshmen, trying to start and earn a place on the team.”

Forget that Kiser became the state’s second all-time leading rusher (7,364 yards) and sixth all-time leading scorer (920 points). Those back-to-back state championships in 2017 and 2018, along with Kiser’s 56-2 high school record?

That won’t matter for the Irish — now and for next season. While he expressed gratitude for the award, Kiser also credited the Royal Center community of 838.

“Football is such a big part of this community,” Kiser said. “It is a special thing — Friday night lights in Indiana. That is what we like to consider ourselves. To be named for such a prestigious award, and to have this community’s support, it is truly amazing. I don’t think there’s a single soul in town that does not know already. They have all let me hear how happy they are.

“Because truly, they are a part of this award just as much as I am. I may have my name on it, but it’s Pioneer High School, it is Royal Center, Indiana, Cass County and the whole community. They are all a part of this award. And they know that, too.”

Kiser hears the doubters. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder rates higher than just Jay Bramblett, a punter, in 247Sports’ Composite ratings of ND’s 21 commits. The Irish want Kiser to play an unfamiliar position, beginning at rover before transitioning to buck linebacker. Kiser served as Pioneer’s quarterback and free safety.

He’s also 20 pounds undersized.

The transition from Indiana 1A ball to ND will be an uphill battle, and Kiser recognizes that. It’s why he will enroll early next month. He’s also developed a relationship with freshman linebacker Bo Bauer, who enrolled early and offers Kiser advice.

“I have been able to bounce questions off him about what to expect,” Kiser said. “I also see a lot of the same values that he has in me. I’m excited to be able to build that relationship even further, try to pick his mind and compete with him.

“… He just told me to come in with my head down, work hard and give all of my effort. They recognize that, and at the end of the day, the best guys are going to be able to play. No matter if you are a freshman or senior.”

Sixty high school coaches voted on the Mr. Football award, with 30 casting their votes for Kiser. Warren Central receiver David Bell placed second, receiving 17 votes. Kiser recalled when Jaylon Smith, a former Irish linebacker, garnered the same honor for Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Lauers in 2012.

No Class 2A player had been named Mr. Football at that point.

“We were told, ‘A small school kid could never do that,’” Kiser said. “Then, Jaylon Smith goes out and does it. He’s really been the only small school kid to ever do it. It has just been that myth that small school kids can’t get it. To get it, to be named Mr. Football of Indiana, it means so much. And it puts you in a pretty neat group when you talk about small school kids with Jaylon Smith.”

The Panthers dominated opponents this season, rolling up a 936-39 margin of victory across their 15-0 season. Kiser helped Pioneer to 11 shutouts thanks to his 159 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, six forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.

He went 62-of-94 for 1,183 passing yards with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. Kiser turned 177 carries into 2,109 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns.

And he’s ready for it to not matter anymore.

“It does not matter who you are, what your star is or what you did in high school,” Kiser said. “Everybody is restarting. Everybody is square one. You have to come in and prove yourself every single day.”

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