Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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36 APRIL 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY ANDREW MENTOCK I n an ordinary year, chaos ensues at the Indiana Convention Cen- ter in Downtown Indianapolis in late February. Members of the media swarm the long halls from sunrise until dinnertime, hanging on every word and action of the more than 325 participating NFL Draft prospects. In 2020, nine Notre Dame play- ers were in attendance at the NFL Combine. This was just before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled most in-person events, especially those of such magnitude. With the country still in the midst of the pandemic, 2021 draft hopefuls are in a precarious spot. Sans in-per- son evaluations, there are 11 Fighting Irish players invited to the 2021 NFL Combine. This ties Notre Dame with Alabama and Georgia for the second- most invitees among college teams. Ohio State leads with 14. All combine workouts such as the 40-yard dash, broad jump and strength-based competitions will, instead, take place only at each pro- gram's pro day. Notre Dame will host its pro day March 31, and the NFL will work with individual schools to ensure there is consistency in the drills. Combine invitees will still participate in the interview process and undergo psychological testing, though it will be virtual. In the tenure of head coach Brian Kelly, the most players Notre Dame had selected in a single draft was eight in 2014. There's an outside chance the Irish could match that mark at the 2021 NFL Draft, which takes place April 29-May 1. Among the 11 NFL Combine invi- tees, eight players regularly appear in seven-round mock drafts. In total, there are 14 former Fight- ing Irish players vying for a shot at earning an NFL roster spot — a handful of which will do so as un- drafted free agents. ROUND-ONE LOCK? LB JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH The darling of Notre Dame's 2021 NFL Draft class is Owusu-Kora- moah, the reigning collegiate Butkus Award winner as the nation's best linebacker. At 6-1 and 216 pounds, he's undersized but still carries a PRO ASPIRATIONS Fourteen Notre Dame players are vying for a future in the NFL NFL Draft analysts view Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as a consensus first-round selection, which would make him the first Fighting Irish linebacker to be selected that high since Bob Crable in 1982. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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