Why Brian Kelly just couldn't leave Notre Dame for the NFL
After signing another highly ranked recruiting class, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly joined us on The Audible and expounded on his pull to stay at ND, signing a six-year contract extension last week, and why the NFL really isn’t on his radar now.
"I just have been at this so long at the college ranks that I feel like being able to control the roster, being able to recruit the kids that put together your team is so crucial,” Kelly explained. "And then, making the decisions on who gets a scholarship. I control it. It’s head coach-centric for me. And to be able to give that up after 25 years, I just came to the realization that I can’t do that.
"I get such a satisfaction on being able to develop these players that when push came to shove, it was a decision that I wasn’t willing to give up all those things, and there wasn’t a better place that I would want to be in college than Notre Dame. That made it an easy decision to sign the extension.”
At this point, it would seem like a stretch that an NFL franchise, especially one with stable leadership, would be willing to give a lifetime college coach total roster control.
Kelly is 55-23 in his first six seasons at Notre Dame after taking over a program that was just 16-21 in the three years before he arrived in South Bend. His most recent team in 2015 won 10 games despite being decimated by injuries, including losing starting quarterback Malik Zaire for almost the entire season.
In addition, Kelly broke a little bit of roster news in his appearance on The Audible on Wednesday, when the coach said he plans on redshirting strong-armed rising sophomore QB Brandon Wimbush. "We sacrificed his redshirt season (in 2015) by playing,” Kelly said. "The goal would be to go in this year to redshirt him. That’s why it was very important to get Ian Book out of California. He’s a very proficient passer. He’s going to be a long-reliever for us. He’s a very smart kid that can take that position (third-string) while we redshirt Brandon. And then we’ll let those two kids, DeShone (Kiser) and Malik, compete old-fashion (for the starting job). It’ll be wide open and let the best man win.”
Kelly also told us that the school’s docu-series with Showtime, “A Season with Notre Dame Football,” turned out to be very helpful in recruiting, especially in the case of landing four-star CB Troy Pride.
"His mom and dad were able to get a better insight into Notre Dame and what Notre Dame is about,” Kelly said. "Sometimes you have to overcome some of these stories where you have to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and go to church every day. Or you're getting hit with a ruler if you’re out of line. We’ve got to overcome some of these myths, and they got a chance to see truly what it is to be a Notre Dame student-athlete on a day-to-day basis. And I do think that was very helpful in this recruiting process."
One other ND note: Remember the name Equanimeous St. Brown. Or at least EQ St. Brown, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound WR signed in ND’s 2015 recruiting class who has generated a lot of buzz inside the Irish program. "He’s a surprise for us,” Kelly admitted. "We expected a good player. There's no question. We did not expect what we got from him. He’s long, rangy, athletic, plays the ball extremely well in the air. He’s tough. He will be a top-notch player for us. We are really excited about EQ and what he’s going to be able to do in our offense."
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FS1. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. His latest book, “The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks,” came out in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.