Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer crossed paths with Clawson

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Before he flapped his wings in Philadelphia, before he floated a prayer to sink Virginia, before the interviews and the television shows and the ascension from the bench to the backfield, DeShone Kizer imagined a future at Bowling Green.

Back then, he was a freshman at Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic High School, a soon-to-be discovered diamond that Dave Clawson stumbled on in the rough.

“We were recruiting another player on his team and got a chance to watch DeShone on film very early in his career,” recalled Clawson, now Wake Forest’s head coach, who formerly held the same position at Bowling Green. “Part of it was a family connection. His dad played basketball at Bowling Green.”

And initially, there was a thought that DeShone might play there, too. A burgeoning multi-sport star, Kizer visited for games, and even discussed playing basketball or baseball there as well.

For the time being, his collegiate path didn’t lead to the golden dome.

“When I was a freshman and going into my sophomore year, I thought that maybe my choice was going to be between Bowling Green, Toledo and Syracuse,” Kizer said. “Bowling Green was definitely very intriguing and the option of possibly playing multiple sports there was going to be pretty fun.

“Coach Clawson and I had a really good relationship. He was through our high school quite a bit. We even as a high school went and practiced in the (Bowling Green) indoor facility during the winter.”

Of course, as the seasons changed, so did Kizer’s horizons. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound quarterback led Central Catholic to a state title in his junior season. He passed for 1,611 yards and accounted for 25 touchdowns in 2012.

In turn, Alabama came calling. So did Arkansas, LSU, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Tennessee and Wisconsin, to name a few.

And, late in the process, Notre Dame.

“He was a three-sport athlete, but he just had a very humble nature to him,” Clawson said. “He was not one of the players that let the recruiting process go to his head. Even when he had bigger offers, he came down for a game or two at Bowling Green. He couldn’t have been more level-headed and mature.

“We knew it was a long shot that we were going to get him, but knew that whoever he ended up signing with was getting an outstanding football player, a great competitor, but also a really mature and humble young man.”

Flash-forward to the present. Since he assumed the role of Notre Dame’s starting quarterback on Sept. 12, Kizer has proven to be A.) an outstanding football player, B.) a great competitor and C.) a really mature and humble young man. The sophomore has thrown for 1,931 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding another 308 rushing yards and six scores in his collegiate debut.

More importantly, he carried No. 6 Notre Dame (8-1) to seven wins in their last eight games.

“We have to contribute, obviously, in all the other areas,” head coach Brian Kelly said, “but there is no reason why he can't be on the field in the National Championship Game as your quarterback and say, ‘This group's got a fighting chance.’”

Clawson, as unsurprised as he is complimentary, is the next coach standing in Kizer’s way.

“He probably didn’t even get many one-reps in the spring,” Clawson said. “He was probably three or four (on the depth chart). Then a guy transfers and a guy gets hurt, and he’s put in a position that he wasn’t prepared to have, and he’s still ready and playing extremely well.

“I’m happy for him. He’s an easy guy to root for, but obviously we won’t be rooting for him this weekend. I remember him being a great kid, very well-raised, polite, the type of young man that I think anyone would want in their program.”


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer (14) looks to pass downfield during the second half of the Fighting Irish's 41-24 win over Navy, Saturday, October 10, 2015, in South Bend. SBT Photo/ BECKY MALEWITZ