Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2023

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

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24 AUGUST 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA B rian Kelly's old slogan of "grad- uating champions" has taken a hit in recent years. Of course, Kelly is no longer around to post it on every wall in the Notre Dame football facilities and spout it in some form in every one of his press conferences. He does that at LSU now. But even though he yielded head coaching duties in South Bend to Mar- cus Freeman, the new regime has tried to stay true to the value of receiving a degree from the University of Notre Dame. That piece of paper is invalu- able, and Freeman constantly lets his coaches, players and the media know that. It's fallen on some deaf ears. Nearly half of the 17 players Notre Dame signed in the recruiting class of 2020 are not around to see out their se- nior season. It's not that all seven of them were good enough to enter the NFL Draft after their junior campaigns, either; only tight end Michael Mayer accomplished that feat. Defensive end Alexander Ehrens- berger, two Notre Dame degrees in hand, retired to pursue a medical ca- reer in his native Germany. Graduating early and successfully moving on to a new phase in life with eligibility to spare isn't the same as transferring out of the program, perhaps prematurely. Five signees from the class of 2020 did that. THE TRANSFERS This group is headlined by quarter- back Drew Pyne. It's common for Notre Dame student- athletes to eat, sleep and breathe every aspect of the university. It takes a spe- cial breed of young adult to suit up in blue and gold. The lore of the football program. The rigors of the school's aca- demics. Why not show it all off to the world? Pyne, who always wore a spar- kly shamrock necklace to media op- portunities, did that in his three years in South Bend — and then some. Pyne's transfer to Arizona State in December after starting 10 games with an 8-2 record in the 2022 sea- son showed that even the most ar- dent, undying loyalty sometimes isn't enough to keep a student- athlete fully satisfied in this era of college athletics. P y n e c o m p l e te d 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,021 ya rd s w i t h 2 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2022, and then was told by the Notre Dame coaching staff that the Irish were going to pursue a quarterback in the transfer portal. He quickly entered the transfer por- tal himself and committed to Arizona State before it was p u b l i c ly re - vealed who the ON THEIR OWN Tight end Michael Mayer leaves Tight end Michael Mayer leaves behind a Notre Dame senior class behind a Notre Dame senior class that must show it was always that must show it was always more than just one elite player more than just one elite player Chris Tyree has a chance to rein- vent himself as an offensive threat at wide receiver after spending his first three seasons at Notre Dame as a running back. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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