Tyler Eifert is returning to Notre Dame for his senior season, the tight end's father, Greg, to The Journal Gazette in a text message Friday.
The former Bishop Dwenger standout has been pondering his decision for weeks, and he received a third-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board.
“This was a tough decision for me, but it came down to where do I want to be most next year,” Eifert said in a statement released by the school. “I have some great friends on the football team and at Notre Dame and I’m excited about the direction Coach Kelly has us going. Ultimately, the entire Notre Dame experience, including the great relationships I have with my teammates and coaches, told me Notre Dame is where I belong.”
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Mackey Award finalist was the Irish's second leading receiver this season, recording 63 receptions for 803 yards and five touchdowns.
“I’m obviously very happy that Tyler will be part of our team next year,” coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “It’s always a good thing when an All-American decides he wants to spend another year in your program. Tyler is an exciting, athletic tight end who is an essential part of our offense. I’m happy he has decided to come back to finish his degree and help us to secure a championship season.”
Eifert's return helps offset the loss of Michael Floyd to graduation. Floyd led Notre Dame's offense with 100 catches for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns.
Eifert's decision also makes Notre Dame two-for-two in keeping underclassmen this off-season. Linebacker Manti Te'o decided to return for his senior year in December.
Eifert was named first-team All-American in 2011 by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, was a second-team All-America selection by Associated Press and was named a third-team All-American by Rivals.com and Phil Steele.
“I didn’t come to Notre Dame just to help me get to the NFL,” Eifert said. “The value of the Notre Dame degree is so great, and since I am only two semesters away from graduating it would have been crazy for me to walk away now. Having the opportunity to go to the NFL will eventually be a bonus on an already great college experience.”
Eifert is scheduled to graduate with a degree in management-entrepreneurship in December 2012.
Eifert has 90 receptions for 1,155 yards in his Notre Dame career. He is tied with Kyle Rudolph for the fourth-most catches in a career by a Notre Dame tight end and ranks second all-time in receiving yards by an Irish tight end. Eifert needs 39 receptions and 605 receiving yards to break Ken MacAfee’s school records for career catches and career receiving yards by a Notre Dame tight end.
“I feel I still have many areas I can improve as a player,” Eifert said. “I need to get physically stronger to become a better blocker and I can always improve my route running. I’m confident that will happen in the next year.”