In Crist's rear-view mirror, there are no regrets and lots of love for ND
Editor’s note: In the coming semester, a number of Notre Dame players with fifth-year options, perhaps including QB Everett Golson, will have to make a decision whether to finish their careers in an Irish uniform or walk away and start over somewhere else.
In this two-part series, we take a look at two recent Notre Dame quarterbacks who faced that decision and how it now looks in the rear-view mirror. Here’s part I, Dayne Crist, who finished at Kansas.
He has segued seamlessly into a life of a financial adviser, with no regrets and showing off his Notre Dame roots at every turn.
Former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist played golf with ex-Irish teammate and current Arizona Cardinals star receiver Michael Floyd this past week and put him up while the two played catch-up.
He regularly texts Chicago Bears backup QB Jimmy Clausen, the fellow five-star QB prospect Crist once hoped to even beat out when the two overlapped at ND and eventually settled for being the next in a rich run of quarterback lineage at the school.
Crist even is deferring his wedding date with fiancée Hillary Ferguson until the spring of 2016 in hopes of securing a date in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the ND campus.
“Coming in you hear that it’s a 40-year decision when you choose Notre Dame, not a four-year one,” Crist said via telephone from his residence in Hermosa Beach, Calif. “And at the time that you’re there, you just can’t wrap your head around it. You can’t quantify it.
“You can’t begin to fathom what it means. But that statement couldn’t be any more truthful. I’m blown away daily by how choosing to go to Notre Dame has changed my life in such a positive way. It’s a situation where I’m just astounded all the time by the great people that I’m constantly meeting and connecting with.”
And yet, if Crist had it to do all over again, he’d choose to take his fifth year at the University of Kansas, reuniting with former Irish head coach Charlie Weis, even if his 2012 season — as his former teammates were making a run to the national title game — ended with modest statistics and a late-season demotion to backup QB.
Crist completed 48 percent of his passes, threw for 1,313 yards with four TDs and nine interceptions on a team with rebuilding pieces all around him, and that lost 11 straight games after a season-opening win over FCS school South Dakota State.
“It would have been different if I had to leave without my Notre Dame degree, because I never would have done that,” Crist said. “That was never in the cards for me. But I was lucky I accelerated my academic track the way I did to even have that opportunity.
“It all worked out the way it was supposed to. I’m happy I was able to gain the best of both worlds within that situation and I’m very lucky that I had such positive experiences at both places.”
Crist is three credits short of a graduate degree in sports management, something he vows to complete. And he had two aborted pro football opportunities after his time at Kansas, something he does not look upon as unfinished business.
As an undrafted free agent, Crist was first invited to a Kansas City Chiefs minicamp but left without a contract. Later in that spring of 2013, he spent three weeks on the roster of the Baltimore Ravens and then again another week in August before his release coaxed him to move into the business world.
“Everybody’s departure from the game is totally unique and their own,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where everybody from day one wishes they could play football forever and have a storied, Hall-of-Fame career. And even if they do, it ends for everybody in time.
“Football has given me so many wonderful memories and such positive experiences that I never wanted to get to a position where I was not leaving on my own terms and kind of by my own will. I was able to kind of walk away when I realized my window of opportunity was closing.
“I was in good health, and I was able to gain closure by kind of doing it on my own. At the same time, I was really excited about what was next. I didn’t feel like, ‘Man I’m quitting, I’m giving up and I couldn’t do it.’ It was just the right time, and I was excited about starting my life.”
The start of Crist’s career at ND in 2008 was the only one without injury, heartache or both during his four years in an Irish uniform. He redshirted and learned behind Clausen.
In 2009, that apprenticeship took on some actual experience, and Crist was able to work into four cameos before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee on Halloween night that also threatened his availability to compete for the starting job the following spring.
It happened in a 40-14 win over Washington State in San Antonio, Texas, in what would be the last victory in the Weis Era at Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly was hired to succeed Weis in December of 2009 and Crist completed his rehab much faster than his doctors had projected and was named the starter for the 2010 season.
There he had his best season, throwing for 2,033 yards, completing 59 percent of his passes while throwing for 15 TDs and seven interceptions and running for four scores — that is until 364 days after his first serious knee injury, Crist suffered a torn patella tendon to his left knee.
Freshman Tommy Rees took over and the two engaged in a tight battle for the top of the QB depth chart in 2011, eventually won by Crist. For a half of one game.
Kelly benched Crist at halftime of a season-opening 23-20 upset loss to South Florida and was an afterthought virtually the rest of the season. His final game on the field for the Irish was mop-up duty in a 56-14 rout of Navy on Oct. 30, 2011 in which he threw and completed all three of his passes.
“It was my job, as a teammate and a senior and a guy who cared about everybody and loved everybody else on that team, to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and that was my sole focus. I didn’t really have an opinion on other people’s opinions about my situation.
“I just knew I had to prepare and be ready at a moment’s notice and do that for my team, because I owed it to them.”
But eventually he felt he owed it to himself to make a move to Kansas.
“Even with everything that had happened, it was still an incredibly difficult decision, nothing that I ever planned on or wanted to have happen,” he said. “I’ve always tried to control what I can control, and I had to make a calculated decision and take some calculated risks. Everybody’s got a finite amount of time to enjoy being able to play this game.”
Now he enjoys life without doubts of what might have been.
“I’m proud of all the things I was able to do and accomplish,” Crist said. “It was challenging, but I think I did the very best with the situation that was presented to me, and I’m just very lucky to have maintained relationships at both places and lucky that both places treated me so well.
“Notre Dame will always be a big part of who I am. And that includes keeping up with the football team. I’m watching what Everett (Golson) is going through now. I look forward to watching him continue to compete and battle. He’ll always have a supporter in me.”
Coming next, Part 2, Andrew Hendrix