Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 18, 2021

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

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16 SEPT. 18, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL J ack Kiser bucked the family trend by choosing Notre Dame. That's putting it mildly. Kiser, a junior starter at Notre Dame's rover linebacker position, didn't just pick a different school than a parent or sibling attended as a regular student or rooted for growing up. His choice to play for the Irish and not Purdue makes him an outlier among his immediate family. Among his extended family. And in his hometown. "If you dig into my family history," Kiser said, "I have a lot of gold and black blood through the pipeline." It starts with his father, Aaron, a former Purdue discus thrower and shot-putter who earned several Big Ten medals. Aar- on's three brothers and one sister are Pur- due alums. Jack's uncle and Aaron's older brother, Brian, was Purdue's 1990 Athlete of the Year and a former Big Ten cham- pion discus thrower. Jack's older brother Sam graduated from Purdue in 2020. Needless to say, Notre Dame's Sept. 18 home game against the Boilermakers is a much-anticipated affair in the Kiser family and for Kiser's hometown of Royal Center, Ind. It's the intrepid disruptor's team versus the family and local favorite. "Jack will be able to focus and not play into that," Aaron said. "But there will be a little emotion." Certainly, on Aaron's end. He's no ordinary alum. He's a former student- athlete who gave countless hours to Purdue's athletic department and re- mains an ardent supporter. "I would put it this way," Aaron said. "For myself, when Peyton Manning left the Colts and went to Denver, and the Colts played Denver that year, it was kind of odd because you're really root- ing for Peyton Manning but you're root- ing for the Colts also. When that game comes up, it'll be that Peyton Manning factor times two. It'll be fun." Kiser has cousins who are currently Purdue students. His girlfriend is one, too. Friends and former high school foot- ball teammates are Boilermakers. Royal Center, a town of about 850 with one blinking yellow stoplight, is a 55-minute drive from Purdue's campus. Purdue is a popular choice for high schoolers from the area. The town is full of Purdue fans. Jack was one himself growing up. "It was no secret," Aaron said. "My boys were around Purdue a lot. We would go down there for games and camps." And when Kiser became a Division I-level recruit, Purdue was one of the first programs to offer him. The Boil- ermakers hosted him for a camp dur- ing the summer before his junior year and extended a scholarship soon after. It would have been an easy and comfort- able choice to commit on the spot. Kiser, though, wanted to let the pro- cess play out. When he stepped on Notre Dame's campus to visit for the 2017 home opener, the Irish became a top choice — even though they hadn't offered yet and wouldn't until the following May. He liked the atmosphere. As a business ana- lytics major, the Mendoza School's offer- ings intrigued him. He liked the football team's stability under Brian Kelly. And he wanted the challenge of competing for playing time at a major program. Kiser made double-digit recruiting visits to Purdue and Notre Dame. He had strong relationships with Iowa and Duke, which he also considered. But his recruitment was not a months-long battle with constant wrestling between childhood favorite and the biggest stage. Notre Dame was his long-held preference. He committed a month after earning the offer. "There were a lot of things that went into it," Kiser said. "Purdue's a very good academic school as well. When I came on a visit to Notre Dame, you walk on campus and it's different. There's no way I could've turned down Notre Dame. "I never came up with a No. 2. I just knew who No. 1 was, and that was good enough for me." That's not to say Purdue didn't appeal to him. The road to playing time would be plausibly shorter. He could spend a year with Sam, who is three years older. There would be plenty of familiar faces GOING HIS OWN DIRECTION By choosing Notre Dame, junior linebacker Jack Kiser took a different path than his Purdue-loving family

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