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Clausen skipping senior season for NFL

ESPN is reporting that Jimmy Clausen is leaving Notre Dame and entering the NFL draft. It’s a decision that isn’t exactly shocking, but still quite a disappointment for Notre Dame fans that were hoping their star signal caller would return for his senior season and final year of eligibility.

“After the season, in talking to my parents and obviously Coach Weis, I just feel it’s the right time,” Clausen told ESPN. “Coach Weis told me whether he was going to be here or not be here, it was time for me to go. He thought I’ve improved so much since I came to Notre Dame. So, I’m taking his advice, and I’m going to head out.”

Clausen will hold a press conference today in South Bend at 2 p.m. where the decision will be made official.

I can’t help but think back to our official introduction to Jimmy Clausen, which has haunted Jimmy since arriving in South Bend. Arriving in a stretch Hummer limousine to the College Football Hall of Fame and posing for a few highly regrettable pictures flashing small-school California championship rings, Clausen did much more to hurt his public persona than Weis ever did. Yet the statements made at the press conference were hardly inflammatory. (Take a look, here.)

The question many of us will now debate is the lasting legacy of Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame. I don’t fault him for bolting to the NFL, especially after watching his two older brothers fail to make it after signing with elite college football programs, and after watching Sam Bradford’s nightmare senior season unfold this year. But still, it’s hard to make an argument for Clausen as one of Notre Dame’s best quarterbacks regardless of the singular nature of his statistics this season.

Jimmy’s final season at Notre Dame should go down in school history as one of the greatest individual performances in Irish history. Yet Clausen’s legacy will now be that of an individual, a talented quarterback that made steady progress through three seasons of mediocre football. It’s not Clausen’s fault that he was dogged by two of the worst offensive lines in the history of Notre Dame football during his freshman and sophomore seasons. But Clausen exiting early means he doesn’t deserve the adulation of his predecessor Brady Quinn, or even lesser skilled quarterbacks like Jarious Jackson, who left Notre Dame with single-season records for passing yards and completions in a far different system in 1999.

In the end, Jimmy Clausen can be looked at like a lot of other Notre Dame students. He chose the very best college that would help him achieve his goals. Jimmy didn’t want to be a lawyer, didn’t want to get into high finance or real estate. He wanted to be an NFL quarterback. He chose the best coach at the best school that he thought would prepare him for life after college. Leaving now means he’ll never be hailed as a legend, but he should be remembered for being a damn good quarterback, who had a magical final season.