Blair Kiel, who quarterbacked Notre Dame teams to 18 wins from 1980-83, died Easter Sunday in Columbus, Indiana of nature causes, according to the Bartholomew County Coroner.
Kiel was the uncle of current Irish freshman quarterback Gunner Kiel
Kiel was the first freshman quarterback to start at the University, taking over for senior Mike Courey and Dan Devine’s Irish in October 1980. Prior to his first start, Kiel made a name for himself in relief, keying two Notre Dame comeback wins (over Michigan and Michigan State), and a 3-0 start.
Kiel and the '80 Irish roared to 9-0-1 and a #2 national ranking before losing at USC and then in the Sugar Bowl to national champion Georgia.
Kiel, who punted for the Irish for four consecutive seasons and left school with the second-highest net average in program history (since surpassed), was jostled back-and-forth from the starting lineup under new head coach Gerry Faust, giving way to Tim Koegel and Ken Karcher over the next three seasons.
The Irish were 10-5-1 with Kiel under center over that span; 1-5 when led by another signal-caller.
After the team began 2-2 in his senior season, 1983, Kiel ceded his spot to freshman Steve Beuerlein for the remainder of the regular season, though he capped his collegiate career quarterbacking the squad to a 19-18 Liberty Bowl victory vs. Boston College and future Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie.
Kiel concluded his career with the most pass attempts in program history. He still holds the program record for the longest touchdown pass, a 96-yard strike to Joe “Small Wonder” Howard vs. Georgia Tech in 1981.
Kiel was an 11th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and logged eight seasons in the NFL as a quarterback and punter, playing in the Canadian Football League to end his football career in 1992-93.
He was 50 years old.