Tommy Tremble looking to shake things up at Notre Dame Pro Day

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

The decision to speed up his NFL timeline sounded much more matter of fact than agonizing, as Notre Dame tight end Tommy Tremble recounted the process Monday via Zoom.

Maybe some of that had to do with how long the dream didn’t feel real, from a gruesome ankle injury that ravaged his senior season at Norcross (Ga.) Wesleyan High to a scary stretch of preseason camp at ND in 2019, when Tremble couldn’t stay hydrated because of excessive vomiting.

Weeks later, after Gatorade chews and Pedialyte helped solve the latter problem, Tremble was handed the game ball in that season’s opener with Louisville, which also happened to be his collegiate debut after a year as a redshirting bystander. Sixteen months after that, the 6-foot-4, 248-pounder became only the second Irish player ever to leave for the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore.

“I met with our coaches twice before then, just to make sure I was making the best decision for myself,” said Tremble, who announced that decision on Jan. 7. “I personally felt ready for it and I just wanted to make sure I talked in detail with my coaches about it.

“They were fully supportive of me. They were really great in this process, and I appreciate that.”

Tremble’s draft buzz has been trending positively ever since.

Heading into Notre Dame’s Pro Day — a de facto NFL Combine for the 14 Irish players participating on Wednesday — Tremble is rated as the third most-coveted Irish pro prospect in this draft cycle behind only seemingly surefire first-rounder, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and left offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg, whose draft floor appears to be the second round.

NBCSN will televise the physical testing and position drills portions of Pro Day in a one-hour window from 11 a.m. to noon EDT. It also can be viewed through Notre Dame’s new streaming service, Fighting Irish TV (und.com/fightingirishtv).

At least 31 of the 32 NFL teams are expected to have representatives attend the Irish on-campus workouts, which also will include medical checks.

Tremble said he’s been 100 percent healthy for about a month after carefully rehabbing a high ankle sprain he sustained in ND’s 31-14 College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Alabama on Jan. 1.

Overall, Tremble is the 19th Notre Dame player to go three-and-out since the league opened its doors to underclassmen in 1989. Only quarterback DeShone Kizer, in 2017, previously left more than a year of college eligibility on the table.

With the NCAA’s blanket COVID exemption, Tremble technically had three years left.

Twelve of the 19 ND players to leave during their third year in school played at least one season for Kelly. Four of those 12 have been tight ends, with three — Kyle Rudolph, Troy Niklaus and Cole Kmet — eventually becoming second-round draft selections.

Draft analyst Dan Brugler of The Athletic projects Tremble as the No. 4 tight end in the draft and No. 84 prospect overall. That would put him in position to be selected in the third round of the April 29-May 1 NFL Draft.

Owusu-Koramoah is No. 15 on Brugler’s board, and Eichenberg 48th. Offensive guard Aaron Banks is the fourth ND player in Brugler’s top 100, at No. 99

“The thing he brought to Notre Dame for us and the team that he’ll go to is a different physicality,” offered Irish quarterback Ian Book of Tremble. “He was a spark plug for our team and for our offense especially.

“If we needed him to be the lead hat in the run game, he’d do it. He’d go and take out the best player and create a huge hole for the running backs. If we needed him to make a big play down the field, running a certain route, he’d do it.

“And that’s what he’ll do for the team that drafts him. He’s just got a different level of physicality and he’s willing to put his body on the line. And when you’ve got somebody out there on the field who’s willing to do that and put their body on the line for you, that’s a teammate that you want to have.

“I think he’s ready for this Pro Day. He’ll go and tear it up.”

What Tremble hopes to show off Wednesday during the lift/jump/run-fest is his pass-catching ability. Tremble caught 16 passes for 183 yards and four TDs in 2019, then 19 more for 218 yards last season.

But both seasons he was more sidekick than featured tight end. Kmet had 43 receptions for 515 yards and six TDs in 2019, while freshman Michael Mayer tied for the team high with 42 catches in 2020. He had 450 receiving yards and two TDs.

Tremble, though, was peerless in terms of a blocking tight end in 2020 at ND and perhaps throughout college football.

“I think for the next level what I’m going to bring is (being) a guy who’s a complete tight end,” Tremble said, “a guy who can do it all.

“My biggest strength I think is my versatility in all aspects of the game. No matter what anyone else says, they haven’t seen me do it all like that yet. They’ve only seen me do a tiny bit of it.”

Eventually, he said he’ll find a way to multitask that with being a student and completing his Notre Dame degree requirements.

Eight of the previous 18 three-and-outs have come back and gotten their degree, including four the past two springs (Jaylon Smith, Josh Adams, Niklas and Julian Love) through an initiative created by Kelly and Adam Sargent, associate director of academic services for student-athletes.

Former All-America fullback Jerome Bettis is the latest, doing his coursework online because of COVID-19.

“I really want to focus on making a job, having a job for the next years,” Tremble said, “but of course you always want to come back to get that degree.

“That’s something you come to Notre Dame for — that golden degree — and that thing is special. So I really want to be able to come back in the next few years, try to finish that degree and make my parents happy about that.”

Notre Dame tight end Tommy Tremble (24) is greeted by fans as he leaves the field following the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28, 2019 in Orlando, Fla.