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Notre Dame

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    This time, Brian Kelly didn’t call it a debacle or second-guess one of his decisions, even as the roughest stretch of his tenure as Notre Dame’s coach got a little bit rougher.
  • Irish run away from Holy Cross
    She didn’t get a dunk on Sunday, but it may only be a matter of time for Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner.
  • Irish bid for win repelled
    Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and Providence forward LaDontae Henton crossed paths outside the interview room at Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday. “Fabulous game,” Brey said as he shook Henton’s hand.
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Top 10 picks
1. CHIEFS: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
2. JAGUARS: Luke Joekel, OT, Texas A&M
3. DOLPHINS: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
4. EAGLES: Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma
5. LIONS: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
6. BROWNS: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
7. CARDINALS: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
8. RAMS: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
9. JETS: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
10. TITANS: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
For more selections, see Page 3B
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Michael Ledo, CEO and president of AWP Sports, greets Tyler Eifert at Eifert's family home north before the start of the NFL draft Thursday.
NFL draft

Eifert earns his stripes

Tight end drafted by Bengals

Tyler Eifert had to clear up some confusion while taking a call from his new team Thursday night.

The former Notre Dame and Bishop Dwenger tight end was in his parents' bedroom as about 100 family members and friends were down stairs in his parents' house.

Eifert took the call as the Chicago Bears were on the clock during the TV broadcast of the first round, and those in the room – his mom, dad, sister, two brothers, girlfriend and agent – thought he was going to the Bears with the 20th selection overall.

But it wasn't the Bears, but it was a team close to home.

Eifert was taken with the 21st selection by the Cincinnati Bengals, a team located three and a half hours away from Fort Wayne.

"The whole time, they thought it was the Bears. I said, 'No. It's the Bengals,'." Eifert said Thursday night. "I don't get excited about too much, but that was pretty exciting."

Eifert stayed with his immediate family after taking the call to watch commissioner Roger Goodell announce that he was selected by the Bengals. After that, he came down stairs to his draft party, and the guests saw a different Eifert than they had seen before.

"The face that he made when he came down those stairs after he got drafted was something I've never seen out of him before," said John Goodman, Eifert's former Notre Dame and Dwenger teammate. "You never see Tyler very worked up about anything. He was very worked up about this. It was cool."

Goodman was one of Eifert's Notre Dame teammates to be at his house the night of the first round. He was also joined by Tommy Rees, Dan Fox, Alex Welch, Zack Martin, Chris Watt and Christian Lombard.

"Everybody was waiting for me out there, just a sea of people," Eifert said. "It was really cool."

Eifert's mother, Julie, said it was cool that her oldest child will be within driving distance of Fort Wayne as he starts his NFL career.

"As a mom, I was so excited that he was three hours away," Julie Eifert said. "Where ever he would have gone, it would have been the most special moment. Having him three hours away, I thought, 'Wow, I can drive. I can be there. We can be there for the games.

"We have three other kids, and they have stuff on the weekends. Knowing we can drive on Sunday, go to his game and come back, that was very meaningful. It's just a great fit for the family, most of all because it's a great organization, and I think it is a great fit for Ty."

Eifert joins a team that has made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons as a wild card, losing to Houston in the first round both times. And a team with a good corps of young offensive talent with quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham.

Eifert was taken by the Bengals in the same spot that they drafted Gresham in 2010. Eifert's selection was also the first time a tight end was taken in the first round since the Bengals took Gresham out of Oklahoma.

"It's a good situation and organization to be part of with a lot of weapons on offense," Eifert said. "A great quarterback, a great tight end and A.J. Green is one of the best in the league at receiver. I'm just happy to be part of it."

Eifert said going to Cincinnati is a little like when he signed with Notre Dame, which at the time had budding receiver stars in Michael Floyd and Golden Tate, tight end Kyle Rudolph and quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

"I was just happy to be at Notre Dame, but at this point, I'm happy to be there but I also want to get on the field," Eifert said.

Eifert's father, Greg, said he had the chance to listen to Bengals coach Marvin Lewis at a speaking engagement one time, and the former Purdue basketball player is happy his son will play for Lewis.

"I got to hear (Lewis) speak to a group of us about five or six years ago, and I was like, 'That's a guy I would want to play for,'." Greg Eifert said. "They got a great group of people, and I think it's a place where Ty can do well. He's close to home, where people can come see him play, which is important to Ty. And it's important to us.

"We are excited."

Eifert is the fifth Irish tight end to be taken in the first round since 1978, and he is the school's 64th first-round selection.

The 6-foot-6, 251-pounder joined Ken MacAfee, who was taken with the No. 7 overall selection by San Francisco in 1978; Tony Hunter, who was taken with the No. 12 selection by Buffalo in 1983; Derek Brown, who was taken with the No. 14 overall selection by the New York Giants in 1992; and Irv Smith, who was taken with the No. 20 selection by New Orleans in 1993, as a first-round selection.

He is also the latest in a line of tight ends to go the NFL. He is the seventh Irish tight end to be drafted in the last 13 years.

Jabari Holloway started Notre Dame's recent tight end parade to the pros when he was taken in the fourth round of the 2001 draft by New England. John Owens was selected in the fifth round by Detroit the following year, and Jerome Collins was taken in the fifth round by St. Louis in 2005.

Notre Dame tight ends moved up the draft board after that with Anthony Fasano being taken in the second round by Dallas in 2006, John Carlson going to Seattle in the second round in 2008 and Kyle Rudolph landing in Minnesota via a second-round pick in the 2011 draft.

Eifert had a team-high 685 receiving yards and matched receiver TJ Jones as the Irish's receptions leader with 50 catches last season. He also had four touchdowns and earned the Mackey Award as the nation's top college tight end.

Eifert left Notre Dame as the school's all-time leader in receptions (140) and receiving yards (1,840) by a tight end.

"This is such an exciting time for Tyler and his family," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. "He was faced with a difficult decision following his junior season whether or not to return to school. Tyler returned for his senior season and that decision was rewarded today. He proved to be the best tight end in college football, solidified himself as a first-round draft pick and, most importantly, earned his degree from the University of Notre Dame."

tkrausz@jg.net

Photo gallery

  • For photos from the 1st round selections, click here.

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