DeShone Kizer said earning his Notre Dame degree remains his top priority, even as he officially begins his professional career tonight during the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
“I’ll do whatever I can from here on out to get back to that. I’m only about 35 credits short. But I’ll spend every summer working towards that. I chose Notre Dame because of the power of their degree, so I want to make sure I have it in hand,” the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback said in a phone interview from Philadelphia about an hour ago.
Kizer is one of 14 true juniors from Notre Dame to pursue an NFL career without earning a degree, according to research by the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen. Only four — wide receiver Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, cornerback Tom Carter, running back Darius Walker and quarterback Jimmy Clausen — have returned and completed the required courses to earn their degree.
Jerome Bettis, who had a Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has lamented not finishing. Even at 45 years of age, Bettis said he wants to finish to be a better example to his two teenage children.
In our brief interview, Kizer and I also discussed his budding friendship with San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, which family members are coming to tonight’s draft with him and Kizer’s not-so-secret guilty pleasure, food-wise.
The first round of the draft will air at 8 p.m. on the NFL Network and ESPN or online on WatchESPN or NFL.com/Watch.
OFD: “I just wanted to ask you real quick what’s going on with the Tostitos Cantina today.”
DESHONE KIZER: “Yeah, so I’m over at the Tostitos Cantina here in Philly. I’m kind of intermingling with some of the fans out there. Tostitos is the official chip and dip of the NFL. We’re having a good time. They’ve been around our family parties for the last — pretty much every party I can ever remember that were sports parties. And they’ll continue to be with us, probably, after this draft process is done.”
OFD: “Awesome. Are there also oatmeal creme pies at those parties?”
KIZER: “Oh yeah. Tons of them. Oh, you know me.”
OFD: “I want to ask you about your education. I know the draft is taking up all your time and your energy and you’re focusing on your NFL career. But you are one of 14 true juniors to leave Notre Dame early to pursue an NFL career. Only three of them have come back to actually graduate. I was wondering what getting your degree is in terms of priority for you.”
KIZER: “Oh, it’s the number one priority. I’ll do whatever I can from here on out to get back to that. I’m only about 35 credits short. But I’ll spend every summer working towards that. I chose Notre Dame because of the power of their degree, so I want to make sure I have it in hand.”
OFD: “How difficult do you think that will be to navigate with a NFL career at the same time?”
KIZER: “Not too difficult. Notre Dame has been able to set up satellite campuses recently, so hopefully I’ll be able to stop by those and get credits as we move forward.”
OFD: “Do you have any idea what in your second career - after your NFL career, hopefully that goes a long time - would you like to use your finance degree in a certain way?”
KIZER: “Absolutely. I’m a big business guy. And I plan on doing something with business moving foward. Whether it’d be entrepreneurial or try to run a corporation one day, we’ll figure that out when the day comes.”
OFD: “Through the draft process, I’m totally curious: Is there a person that if you weren’t going through the draft process, that you enjoyed so much that you’d say, ‘Hey, if we were two normal people, we’d sit down and have a beer. I like this person.’”
KIZER: “As far as another talent?”
OFD: “No. Whether it’s somebody you interviewed with or a prospect, just somebody you hit it off with and said, ‘You know, I think we could be friends if we were just two normal guys.’”
KIZER: “Yeah, Mr. Lynch over at San Francisco. We spent a quite a bit of time together. He’s connected to my agency very well. Him sharing his experiences in the NFL and now obviously becoming a general manager. I hope to stay connected to him, whether it’d be with me wearing the 49ers logo on my chest. Or, if we were to compete against each other, I think we’ll have a relationship that will grow forever.”
OFD: “What is the most off-the-wall question you got during the interview process?”
KIZER: “I’ve gotten that question quite a bit. I didn’t really get any. Everything I had was pretty serious. They had some big questions to ask me and we focused in on that. No really crazy questions.”
OFD: “Cool. Did you get a cheesesteak last night? I’m a fan of Geno’s. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there.”
KIZER: “I heard all about Geno’s. My parents went and got it last time. I was in bed pretty early. I’ll make sure to get one tonight for sure.”
OFD: “Excellent. Who is going to be with your there tonight besides Coach Kelly?”
KIZER: “I have Coach Dempsey, my high school coach. My parents. My siblings. And then aunts and uncles and my grandparents.”