Rudolph skipping his final season

Published 10:32 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Notre Dame junior Kyle Rudolph will forego his final year to enter the NFL Draft. (Daily Star Photo/File)

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — University of Notre Dame junior tight end Kyle Rudolph (Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder) will forgo his final season of athletic eligibility and make himself available for the 2011 NFL Draft, Rudolph announced Wednesday.

The 6-6, 265-pounder leaves Notre Dame with the fourth-most receptions and receiving yards for a career by an Irish tight end in school history.

“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,” Rudolph said. “I truly feel I have grown up here and this has become a home away from home for me.

“There are so many people to thank for helping me get to this point in my life that if I named every person it would take me all day. But I feel I have to name a few because of the impact they had on me. First, and foremost, I want to thank my parents and my family. You have always been there for me and provided unconditional love and support that I cherish. Secondly, all of the great coaches I’ve had the pleasure to play for, especially Coach Kelly, Coach Weis, Coach Denbrock and Coach Parmalee. Coach

Weis and Coach Parmalee were big reasons why I originally came to Notre Dame and Coach Kelly and Coach Denbrock are reasons why it is so tough to leave. My teammates have been what made this experience so special and made this decision so difficult. This team is about to take Notre Dame back to the top and while I won’t be around to help you do that, I’ll be watching and cheering every game next year. I also want to thank the teachers and professors at Notre Dame plus all the support staff that helps the football team and student-athletes at Notre Dame. Last, but certainly not least, the Notre Dame fans and community. There truly is a special spirit on our campus and the fans and community are an integral element of keeping that alive.

“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 totaled 90 receptions for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns for the Fighting Irish and started 28 of 29 career games played at Notre Dame. He ranked in the top 10 in single-season receptions by a tight end in school history, catching 29 passes as a freshman, 33 as a sophomore and 28 in 2010 despite missing the last seven games of the season.

“Kyle Rudolph has a very bright future ahead of him and he will instantly make some lucky NFL team much better next year,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “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. But we are happy for him and his family and are excited to watch him represent the University of Notre Dame during this next chapter of his life.”

“Kyle is a terrific talent and I enjoyed coaching him this year. He made some incredible plays for a guy his size. Who will ever forget that 95-yard touchdown play against Michigan? When I recruited Kyle as a high school senior in Cincinnati, I knew he was a special player, but over the last year I witnessed what a great person he is, too. I look forward to seeing him around campus in the future and watching him on TV from my office on Sunday afternoons.”

One of the top tight ends in the nation the last two years, Rudolph was a semifinalist in 2009 and 2010 for the John Mackey Award, presented annually to college football’s top tight end. Prior to the 2010 season, he was named first-team preseason All-America by Sporting News, Lindy’s and Yahoo! Sports.

As a junior, Rudolph tallied 328 receiving yards and three TDs while starting each of the first six games.

He was on pace to break Notre Dame’s single-season record of receptions by a tight end and record the second-most receiving yards in a season by an Irish tight end prior to sustaining a season-ending hamstring injury. The highlight of Rudolph’s 2010 season occurred in the second game as he tallied a career-best 164 receiving yards on eight receptions and one TD against Michigan. Included in that game was a 95-yard touchdown reception, the second-longest pass play in Notre Dame history.

In 2009, Rudolph was the only sophomore named a semifinalist for the Mackey Award. He started nine of 10 games played and ranked third on the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns with 33 catches for 364 yards and three TDs.

Rudolph became the first freshman to start a season opener at tight end for the Irish in 2008 and he started every game in his rookie season. Rudolph caught 29 passes for 340 yards and two TDs and established freshman tight end receiving records.