SOUTH BEND, Ind. — DeShone Kizer wouldn’t be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback without plenty of persistence.
Part of it is Kizer sticking through some difficult stretches over the last year, as he experienced his then-girlfriend undergoing surgery to remove a baseball-sized tumor from her neck and the culture shock of going from being a high school all-star to a third-stringer languishing on the bench. But that persistence also goes back to Kizer’s recruitment in which he initially didn’t impress Notre Dame.
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Greg Dempsey, the football coach at Central Catholic High School, said Kizer had a rough day throwing when former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin saw him for the first time. It took a second call from Kizer to assistant coach Mike Elston later in the recruiting process for Notre Dame — which wasn’t sure if it was even going to add a quarterback in its 2014 class — to take another look at him.
“When coach Martin came in the first time I was just raw,” Kizer said. “I was a big guy, big arm, really, really long motion of a baseball player, so that didn't really go the way I wanted it to go. Didn't throw the ball well at all. He left, and Notre Dame left, and I kind of just X-ed them out.”
Before he became a four-star recruit, Kizer was a point guard in basketball and pitcher in baseball. His baseball background created a clunky throwing motion for football — he was driving down with his legs like he was throwing off a mound, for one — that was inconsistent. So while he impressed high-profile offensive coordinators like LSU’s Cam Cameron and Alabama’s Doug Nussmeier, his poor showing for Martin almost ended his shot at ending up in South Bend.
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But as Kizer was ready to narrow his college choices, he decided to give one more call to Notre Dame and see if they’d be interested in seeing him throw again. He called Elston on a Thursday and six days later threw again for Martin. A week later, Notre Dame offered him a scholarship and after visiting campus, he cancelled visits to Alabama and LSU and committed to the Irish.
As a footnote to Kizer’s commitment, he called Brian Kelly while the Notre Dame coach was in a room watching film with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
While initially off Kizer’s list, as he evaluated his college options he found Notre Dame had exactly what he was looking for.
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“During my recruiting process we saw the formula of how we were going to go and evaluate schools and academics were one, coaching staff was two, and style of play was three, and then there was campus and things like that at the end of that,” Kizer said. “And Notre Dame from day one was by far the top of all of those.
“We knew Coach Kelly runs the style of offense I wanted to run, and he did a really good job of setting his offense to the style of quarterback that he had. That was something that we really liked as a family. The academics obviously speak for themselves here. We got on campus and fell in love with the campus. So whenever we -- if they wanted to step into the picture at any point in time, we knew we were going to have to take a very good look at them. So they came in late, and just as expected, we hopped on the train.