Junior QB DeShone Kizer leaving Notre Dame for the NFL Draft

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

DeShone Kizer has declared for the NFL Draft.

Notre Dame’s starting quarterback for the last 23 games will leave school early to pursue professional football. Kizer released a statement Monday on Twitter about his decision.

“After discussing with my family and coaches, and weighing the pros and cons of remaining at Notre Dame, I believe it’s time to change my path,” he wrote as part of the statement. “I’ve decided to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. I’m ready to accept this challenge.”

Kizer, a junior, leaves Notre Dame with two years of eligibility remaining. Many believe he will be one of the first quarterbacks selected in the draft.

“DeShone is an extremely gifted quarterback that was faced with a difficult decision,” head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement released on the university’s athletics website. “He could return as a senior captain at Notre Dame — a place that he loves, and with a program that respects him immensely. Or, he could begin the next chapter in his life and accept the opportunity that likely awaits in the NFL.

“While he chose the latter, the type of leadership DeShone displayed this past season will benefit our program moving forward. He’ll certainly be missed on and off the field, but we’re very happy for him and his family. DeShone will always represent this University with the utmost professionalism and class.”

Kizer was named as one of seven captains for the 2017 football team at the team’s awards show Friday night. He was also voted as the team’s MVP for the 2016 season.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Kizer completed nearly 59 percent of his passes (212 of 361) for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. He added 472 yards and eight touchdowns rushing.

Kizer, a native of Toledo, Ohio, emerged as a rising star at Notre Dame in 2015 when he replaced an injured Malik Zaire as the starting quarterback. He led the Irish to the first of three fourth-quarter comebacks in the 2015 season when he entered the Virginia game after Zaire suffered a broken ankle. Kizer finished the 2015 season by completing 211 of his 335 passes (63 percent) for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Kizer and Zaire shared quarterback responsibilities at the start of the 2016 season, but Kizer quickly earned the starting position. Now both are leaving the Irish with Zaire sorting out a graduate transfer destination.

With Kizer and Zaire gone, sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush is expected to step into the starting role. Wimbush played in two games as a freshman, but he was held out of action this past season to preserve a year of eligibility.

Wimbush, a 6-1, 225-pound product of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep, came to Notre Dame as a four-star prospect and an Under Armour All-American. 247Sports slated him as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class. Rivals ranked him fourth at the position.

Below is Kizer’s complete statement regarding his NFL decision:

“Three years ago, I made a decision to attend the University of Notre Dame. I found a second home and a second family. I made many connections, on and off the field, that changed my life in a positive manner. I’m truly grateful and blessed for everything that I’ve received.

“I have an opportunity to continue my football career in the NFL. My family and I have taken the last couple weeks to collect all the necessary information to make a decision that will impact our future. After discussing with my family and coaches, and weighing the pros and cons of remaining at Notre Dame, I believe it’s time to change my path.

“I’ve decided to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. I’m ready to accept this challenge.

“I want to thank the University of Notre Dame, its fans, my teammates, my coaches and the entire football staff for standing beside me and believing in me throughout my career. I’m a better person today because of this support.

“I will forever be Irish at heart.”

Thank you @NotreDamepic.twitter.com/LDjdlCf9nw

— DeShone Kizer (@DKizer_14) December 12, 2016

Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer (14) exits the field following Notre Dame's 45-27 loss to Southern Cal, Saturday at ithe Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)