Kyle Rudolph made it official today: He's going to the NFL.
The junior tight end released a statement from the university, confirming the news first reported by IrishIllustrated.com.
"I truly feel blessed for the last three years of my life at Notre Dame," Rudolph said in a statement. "It has been a great experience I wouldn't trade for anything and wish everyone could experience something like this just once in his or her life. It has also been a dream of mine to play in the National Football League, and so I will forgo my final season of eligibility at Notre Dame and enter my name for the 2011 NFL Draft."
Rudolph didn't play the final seven games for the Irish after suffering a torn hamstring that required surgery in a 23-17 win over Pittsburgh. It was his second major injury in as many years, after a separated shoulder sidelined him for two games during his sophomore season and required off-season surgery.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Cincinnati native was on pace to break the Irish's single-season record for receptions by a tight end, and still finished as the team's third-leading receiver with 28 catches for 328 yards and three touchdowns.
Rudolph had 90 receptions for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns, playing in 29 games and starting 28 in three seasons at Notre Dame.
He is the No. 1 tight end in this year's draft, according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay.
"Kyle Rudolph has a very bright future ahead of him and he will instantly make some lucky NFL team much better next year," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. "I know this was a tough decision for Kyle because of the great relationships he formed at Notre Dame and he will be missed in the locker room next year. But we are happy for him and his family and are excited to watch him represent the University of Notre Dame during this next chapter of his life."
With Rudolph entering the draft, former Bishop Dwenger star Tyler Eifert will likely be the starting tight end next season.
Eifert took over as a starter after Rudolph was injured, and the 6-6, 242-pounder had 27 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame will also have senior Mike Ragone, who has another year of eligibility, and Alex Welch, Jake Golic and oral commitment Ben Koyack in the mix at tight end.
Notre Dame will now wait to find out whether junior receiver Michael Floyd will also skip his senior season to enter the draft.
Floyd led the Irish with 79 catches for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, capping his junior year with six catches for 109 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns in his MVP Sun Bowl performance.