Notre Dame quarterbacks in the NFL have become a scarce commodity since the turn into the 21st century.
In 2004, the Fighting Irish had no representation at the position in the NFL for the first time in the post-World War II era. First-round selection Brady Quinn broke the drought in 2007, and then Jimmy Clausen (2010) and DeShone Kizer (2017) were both second-round selections after their junior seasons with the Fighting Irish.
Unfortunately, their NFL careers were relatively short-lived compared to their projections. Quinn had a 4-16 career record as a starter, Clausen 1-13 and Kizer 0-15. Kizer was not officially listed on an NFL roster this past season but was on the practice squad for the Las Vegas Raiders until Sept. 30, when he was released. On Nov. 24, he was inked to the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad.
It’s not quite like the 1980s with NFL MVPs and Super Bowl champs Joe Montana and Joe Theismann. During that time, other former Notre Dame quarterbacks who played in the league were Rusty Lisch, Blair Kiel, Steve Beuerlein and, for one year, even Tom Clements (1980).
Along with Beuerlein, 1993 No. 2 overall selection Rick Mirer and Jarious Jackson kept the Irish streak through the 1990s and into the next century. However, the lone quarterback drafted during the 11-year Brian Kelly has been Kizer.
That brings us currently to Ian Book, the three-year starter from 2018-20 who helped steer the Fighting Irish into the College Football Playoff two of the past three years with his leadership, efficiency and elusiveness. Although not deemed the archetype for the NFL, his history is laden with overachieving.
Will Book’s next chapter include making an NFL roster in 2021? Here’s our point-counterpoint feature.
He’ll Prove The Doubters Wrong Again
By Todd D. Burlage
Book has heard the naysayers before. He heard their noise at Oak Ridge High School near Sacramento, Calif., in 2016 when folks wondered why Notre Dame would offer a scholarship to only the 15th-best quarterback in the country.
He heard it at Notre Dame when he was presumed to be merely keeping the starting job warm until 6-5 four-star hotshot recruit Phil Jurkovec was ready — while also serving as a “placeholder” to top-100 prospect Brandon Wimbush, who signed with the Irish the year prior to Book. Finally, Book heard it the entire time he was winning more games than any starting QB in Irish history.
“He doesn’t throw downfield, he bails on plays too quickly, he prefers run over pass,” were some of the more popular critiques in 2019, the year before Book led the Irish to the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years.
And now Book is hearing it all over again as he goes through his pre-draft prep work. The prominent noise this time is that Book — at only 6-0 and 211 pounds — has neither the size nor the arm strength to play at the next level.
“I’m not getting any taller, so it’s just the way it is,” Book said before his audition at Notre Dame’s Pro Day March 31.
Nobody is ready to anoint Ian Book as the next Drew Brees — the definition of an undersized, overachieving NFL quarterback. But given Book’s history of overcoming the odds, there is no doubt he will secure a place on an NFL roster, write his latest success story, prove the naysayers wrong again and become a valuable backup to begin his professional career.
Size, Arm Talent Make It Remote For Now
By Lou Somogyi
Growing up, one of my boyhood heroes was 1972-74 Irish quarterback Tom Clements, who was at the throttle for the 1973 national champs. So as a 12-year-old, I was mystified when Clements wasn’t one of the 10 Notre Dame players selected in the 1975 NFL Draft that included 442 picks and 17 rounds.
Those more in the know explained to me that the NFL is different, and that Clements didn’t quite possess the size (6-0 tall) or arm strength to thrive at that level.
The first time I watched Book perform, he reminded me so much of Clements: not great stature, but cagey, resourceful, superbly elusive (both would rush for over 1,000 yards in their careers), clutch in the fourth quarter and a highly respected leader by teammates. Their college records were also similar, with Clements 29-5 as a starter and Book 31-5, minus the title.
Book’s arm talent was fine, but not one to leave pro scouts salivating. And yes, we’re well aware of the Drew Brees’, Russell Wilsons and Kyler Murrays of the world who also were/are smaller of frame, but those are exceptions, not the rule.
Maybe Book can “break the rules” too — and it doesn’t have to be in his rookie year. Clements was a brilliant quarterback in the Canadian Football League before he made the Kansas City Chiefs roster six years later in 1980. There he played in one game before returning to the CFL for seven more outstanding years.
Book in the NFL sooner or later wouldn’t be a complete shock, but the chances do appear remote.
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