Notre Dame, IN (UHND) – Last night reports began to surface that Notre Dame junior tight end Kyle Rudolph was opting to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft. Wednesday, Rudolph made things official and announced he was leaving early and signed with an agent.
“Notre Dame is such a special place and because of all the people I met over the last three years this decision was very tough for me. I truly feel I have grown up here and this has become a home away from home for me,” Rudolph said in his opening remarks Wednesday.
Shortly after, Rudolph made things official. ‘I truly feel blessed for the last three years of my life at Notre Dame. It has been a great experience I wouldn’t trade for anything and wish everyone could experience something like this just once in his or her life. It has also been a dream of mine to play in the National Football League and so I will forgo my final season of eligibility at Notre Dame and enter my name for the 2011 NFL Draft.”
Rudolph said it was a tough decision for him and that there were things he would have liked to accomplish at Notre Dame, but that the timing was right for him. “I came to Notre Dame with the intention of helping to return the program to the BCS and get us back to where we belong. There are still many things I would have liked to accomplish, but I felt this decision was best for my family and myself.”
Rudolph asked the NFL for an evaluation in December and on Wednesday he said that evaluation projected him as a second round pick. “I have heard anything from late first round to the second round,” Rudolph said when asked about where he had heard he would be drafted. When I got my evaluation back from the NFL it said second round.
Head Brian Kelly said that they will miss having Rudolph in 2011 but wished him well. “Kyle Rudolph has a very bright future ahead of him and he will instantly make some lucky NFL team much better next year. I know this was a tough decision for Kyle because of the great relationships he formed at Notre Dame and he will be missed in the locker room next year,” said Kelly.
Kelly also talked about Rudolph’s greatest play, a play that will be talked about for years by Notre Dame fans. “He made some incredible plays for a guy his size. Who will ever forget that 95-yard touchdown play against Michigan?”
With Rudolph officially gone for next year, Kelly will have to decide if he wants to bring back Mike Ragone for a 5th season or roll the dice with hardly any experienced depth behind Tyler Eifert. Efiert certainly showed that he has a lot of talent and big play potential while filling in for Rudolph this year, but behind him Notre Dame does not have a tight end on the roster with a single career catch other than Ragone.
Depending on how recruiting goes and how many scholarships are available, Kelly could decide to take his chances with Alex Welch, Jake Golic, and incoming freshman Ben Koyack providing some depth behind Eifert. Welch was impressive in training camp and Koyack comes in as the most highly recruited tight end to come to Notre Dame since Rudolph.
Rudolph is the 8th Notre Dame junior to declare for the NFL Draft joining Golden Tate (2009), Jimmy Clausen (2009), Darius Walker (2007), Bobby Taylor (1995), Jerome Bettis (1993), Tom Carter (1994), and Rocket Ismail (1991).
Every Notre Dame fan hopes that list does not grow to 9 any time soon with star wide receiver Michael Floyd still contemplating his future.