Heart told rover Drue Tranquill to stay at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Moving on would have been an easy decision for Drue Tranquill.

On Tuesday, Notre Dame’s rover will take his last final in order to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. In July, he will marry his fiancée.

Heading into his senior season, Tranquill anticipated he would be spending the start of 2018 preparing for the NFL Draft and planning his future. Instead, he’ll be taking graduate courses at Notre Dame and gearing up for another round of spring football for the Irish.

“I came into this year thinking I was definitely going to declare,” Tranquill said Friday night after announcing his plan to return for a fifth season to his team at the Echoes awards show. “With getting married, it seemed like the best decision.”

“There was something uneasy in my heart. It started after the Miami game just on the busses realizing that we probably weren’t going to make the college playoffs anymore and realizing everything everyone had put into this thing. I felt in my heart that I owed it to this team to come back and finish what we started. Nothing’s guaranteed and we have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Tranquill didn’t finalize his decision until last Thursday. He discussed it with his fiancée, Jackie Gindt, and then told fellow rover Asmar Bilal. No one else knew until Friday. Even the Irish coaching staff.

“I owed it to everyone to tell them at the same time,” Tranquill said. “I told my parents at Corndance (Tavern Friday night). I was like, ‘I’m going to come back for a fifth year.’ They were like, ‘Oh, you are?’ I was like, ‘Yeah. I think I’m going to announce it if I win an award tonight.’”

And so Tranquill did just that. After he received the Rockne Student-Athlete of the Year for the second time in his Notre Dame career, Tranquill shared the news to the crowd in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

“I’m going to be coming back home for my fifth year,” Tranquill said.

@dtranquill is coming back in 2018!

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) December 9, 2017

It was certainly welcomed news for the Irish coaching staff. Tranquill finished the regular season third on the team with 74 tackles. He added 8.5 tackles for loss (tied for second), three pass breakups, three fumble recoveries (team high), 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.

With Notre Dame losing senior linebackers Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini, Tranquill’s leadership and experience will be needed next season. They served as the three captains on defense this season.

“I don’t think that factored into my decision too much,” Tranquill said. It was more what was in my heart and what I believed.

“Obviously we have a lot of great guys. I’m hoping (linebacker) Te’von (Coney) and (nose guard) Jerry (Tillery) and the rest of the guys come back as well. Ultimately, they have to do what’s best for them. Regardless of any circumstance or what happens, I felt this was best for me and what I wanted to do.”

Both Coney and Tillery are only juniors, but both could be tempted with the opportunity to turn pro after strong seasons. Coney leads the Irish in tackles (99), and Tillery leads in sacks (4).

Tranquill said he doesn’t plan to actively campaign for either player to come back.

“I’m not going to get in their ear. I owe that to them to just allow them to make their own decision and support them in whatever they do,” Tranquill said. “They poured their hearts and souls out for this program. I don’t think they owe us anything.

“But obviously they’re incredible players, and we’d love to have them back. If you look at the guys, if they all came back our defense is pretty stout.”

Tranquill, a 6-2, 231-pound product of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Carroll, is eligible for a fifth year at Notre Dame because his sophomore season was cut short in the third game with an ACL tear in his right knee. Tranquill ended his freshman year with an ACL tear in his other knee.

The history of knee injuries could have coaxed Tranquill into making a run at the NFL while healthy, but those same injuries gave him the option to stay.

Before Tranquill embarks on the 2018 season, he’s focused on getting win No. 10 for Notre Dame against LSU in the Citrus Bowl. That wasn’t going to change regardless of his decision.

“We’re training hard. We had an extremely tough team run (Friday),” Tranquill said. “We’re preparing like it was fall camp getting ready to play Temple. It’s a big game for us and a big opportunity.”

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame’s Drue Tranquill (23) celebrates a fumble recovery against USC. He'll have a chance to make more plays for the Irish in 2018 as he returns for his fifth season. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)