Savvy Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer manages demands on, off field

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The development of DeShone Kizer has been well chronicled.

His evolution as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback has unfolded on the field with newspapers, websites and TV stations documenting the progress. The Showtime series “A Season with Notre Dame Football” only magnified the process. When Kizer stepped in for an injured Malik Zaire in the second game of the season, Showtime was gifted a star for its show. The filming crew would be there to show how he handled the weight of everything being thrown at him.

But while Kizer was maturing as a football player and a student, he was also learning the ins and outs of Showtime’s production. He couldn’t take the spotlight off of him, but he did discover a surefire way to make sure something wouldn’t make the show.

“They did a good job with editing out the stuff that I didn’t really want people to see,” Kizer said. “I kind of figured out that if I say the word ‘Showtime’ while I’m doing something I don’t want on there, they can’t put it on there. So anytime I was in a position where I didn’t want anyone to see it, I would just start yelling ‘Showtime.’ I knew they couldn’t use it.”

Such savvy has guided Kizer through a transcendent sophomore season as a sophomore. Sure, there may be better ways to redirect the attention of a filming crew than shouting the name of the channel they work for, but it got the job done. He solved the problem in his own way. In the same way Kizer has taken control of Notre Dame’s offense.

Yet the story of Kizer’s season is hard to separate from the Showtime series. It was there he publicly revealed the doubts he had following his freshman season. In a conversation with fellow Notre Dame student Jac Collinsworth, Kizer was candid about the thoughts that swallowed him last spring and into the summer.

“I questioned myself a little bit,” Kizer said Monday. “I thought that maybe I was playing the wrong sport and that maybe I should pick up a bat or try to go dribble a basketball or something. At the end of the day, we’ve seen what the season’s turned out to be and it’s pretty cool to know that although those downs were kind of rough in my life, it’s kind of sculpted me into the person I am now.”

And Showtime has been alongside him to capture a season of mostly highs.

“Showtime was a special experience that’s only going to happen every once in a while,” Kizer said. “As a player and as a person who was a part of that, it was a privilege to have them along with us. There’s going to be footage that I’m going to use for the rest of my life to show my family and that people are going to be looking at.”

Before Notre Dame left for the Fiesta Bowl, Kizer was looking forward to spending time with his family during the short break around Christmas.

“I haven’t been able to see them in quite a bit of time. I’ve been through a lot of stress during finals and stuff like that. It’s a time to go home and step away from everything and see all my family members, not only from Toledo but from all over who are coming in for the holidays. I’m just excited to spend some time with them and relax a little bit.”

There’s more than family in Toledo, Ohio, for Kizer. It’s where he developed into a four-star quarterback prospect as a three-sport athlete at Central Catholic High School.

Kizer often refers to his time in high school when discussing his career. Perhaps it’s because just two years ago Kizer was playing basketball for Toledo’s version of the Fighting Irish and his high school career isn’t that far behind him. Or perhaps, as Kizer has suggested, the school truly prepared him for life as Notre Dame’s quarterback.

“In high school, I always kind of prepared myself for who I wanted to be not who I was,” Kizer said. “I was able to take it from a small market in Toledo and try my hardest to be the best I can be there to really represent my high school in Toledo and try to put Central Catholic on the map in Toledo. Now all that focus and energy that was put into trying to make sure that I was doing that at the high school now is just bumped up a little bit at the college level.”

Toledo is also the place where Kizer first came to understand the prominence of Notre Dame’s bowl opponent, Ohio State, as a young child.

“Ohio State’s a team I’ve been hearing from day one,” Kizer said. “Scarlet and gray. Stuff like that has been forced into my life since the day I was in elementary school, and it’s Ohio State-Michigan week and there’s the Ohio State fight song going in the hallways. Those small things amp up the game. I’m very excited to go out and try to win a bowl game.”

Kizer knows plenty of Buckeye supporters. Most of them won’t be welcomed at the Kizer household on his brief trip home.

“We decided as a family that the best thing to do is to just stay away from them, spend some time with your closest family,” Kizer said. “The guys who are going to come in and try to clown are the guys I’m trying to stay away from.”

And as the TV broadcast crew will be sure to bring up during the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State is also the school that didn’t extend him a scholarship offer. Kizer has learned to tiptoe around questions about his motivation playing against head coach Urban Meyer, whose staff only reached out to have him throw for them in a workout after he committed to Notre Dame.

Kizer has cleaned up his words since a near slip-up in an interview on The Dan Patrick Show in November. Host Dan Patrick asked, “So you want a piece of Ohio State is what you’re saying?”

“I would love a,” Kizer started before changing course. “You know, whoever the opponent is on a week-to-week basis is who we’ll play.”

The week is here. Ohio State is the opponent. What better way to finish Kizer’s breakout season?

Sounds like a story made for TV.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer (14) takes a snap at QB during the Notre Dame-Wake Forest NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN