DeShone Kizer will leave one team of Fighting Irish for another.
The Central Catholic quarterback committed to Notre Dame on Tuesday, ending a much-publicized recruitment that included many of the top college football programs in the nation.
Kizer gave Irish coach Brian Kelly the news at noon on a phone call he will not forget. Kelly answered while on an intel-gathering visit to the New England Patriots’ facility in Foxboro, Mass., and in the quarterbacks meeting room with him were Tom Brady and the newly signed Tim Tebow.
Kelly screamed with elation, then switched his phone to a speaker setting.
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“Tom Brady got on and said, ‘Hey, congratulations. We’ll make sure we don’t spread this too much until your announcement,’ ” Kizer said. “It was really cool.”
Kizer, wearing a tie and a freshly purchased Notre Dame hat, later made the announcement in a brief gathering at Central.
A four-star recruit, Kizer had scholarship offers from a roster of blue-blood schools, including LSU, Tennessee, Alabama, Nebraska, and Penn State. But after Notre Dame’s offer last week and his visit to the South Bend, Ind., campus on Sunday, he found no reason to delay.
The 2½-hour drive from home. The academics. The unsurpassed football tradition. Everything about the school, he said, “exceeded the criteria our family had put together.”
“He kept saying this is everything I ever dreamed of,” said his father, Derek Kizer.
Kizer — a 6-foot-5, 210-pound dual-threat quarterback known for his decision-making, ability to throw on the run, and powerful right arm — passed for more than 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in helping lead the Irish to the Division II state championship as a junior last fall. He also stars for the school’s basketball and baseball teams and carries a 3.4 grade-point average.
He would become the first Notre Dame football player from Toledo since linebacker Dave Butler and kicker Ted Gradel of St. John’s Jesuit joined the Irish in 1983, and the first from Central since tight end Dean Masztak, who played from 1978 to 1981.
“I’m excited for DeShone,” Central coach Greg Dempsey said. “It’s one thing to have the ability to play at a school of that magnitude, but I think he’s taken care of everything else that gives him the opportunity to play at the University of Notre Dame.”
In all, Kizer had more than two dozen offers, which included more than half of the Big Ten, Toledo, and Bowling Green State University.
Dempsey said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had recently asked Kizer to throw for him in Columbus, but the Buckeyes had yet to offer. While Kizer hoped that would change, his father said, “Without that offer, we couldn’t include [OSU] in the conversation.”
Kizer narrowed his final five schools to Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, Michigan State, and Tennessee. He had planned to visit LSU this weekend and make other trips.
“But after going to Notre Dame,” Kizer said, “we figured that a trip to LSU would be nothing but pointless time, because we all looked at each other after that visit and said that there’s no better place in the nation that we could possibly be.”
On top of the proximity, education, and magnitude of the nation’s most famous program, Kizer said he connected with Kelly and his staff and saw an advantageous depth chart. Sophomore starter Everett Golson’s recent departure because of an academic issue left the Irish with two upperclassmen among their top three quarterbacks.
“Their quarterback situation had something to do with it,” Kizer said. “They will be short at the quarterback position, and that will give me an easier opportunity to come in and compete and try to get some playing time early.”
Kizer said he will stick with his pledge to Notre Dame. “As a family, we are very honorable to our word,” he said. “This commitment will shut down all type of communication with any other schools.”
His only college decision left is whether to graduate early from Central in order to enroll at Notre Dame next January. Kizer said he is leaning toward spending his entire senior year in Toledo.
For now, Kizer is just happy to feel “the weight of the world” slip off his shoulders.
“I had a lot of long conversations and arguments with my family trying to determine which school I wanted to be at,” he said. “Today is a big relief for me and my family, and now I can focus on trying to win another state championship in football.”