The Next Step
Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen refuted media claims that it was a forgone conclusion he would skip his senior season and place his name in the NFL Draft.
"It's hard coming in with a group of guys with your class and getting to know them like brothers. It was a hard decision. I've always wanted to play professional football but at the same time I'm going to leave a lot of good friends and people that I've met here that are going to be my best friends for the rest of my life so it's going to be a hard transition.
Golden Tate's absence on the 2010 Notre Dame sidelines was less likely that than of his talented quarterback. But his continuous improvement and penchant for the big play pushed the junior to a level he felt would be unable to match as a senior.
"Going into this year I was expecting to be here for another year. For it to become a reality that I might not be here, and to leave the people (his teammates in attendance) here that I love so much and have developed relationships with it's tough, but like Jimmy says, it's been a dream for me to play in the NFL and I think its time for me to go."
Did Clausen's decision to forgo his senior season and the dearth of experience at the quarterback position entering 2010 influence Tate?
"There are a lot of things that played a part and obviously Jimmy was one of them," Tate admitted. "But after having the year I had, I'm not sure I could do much better. I felt it was the right time…go out while you're hot."
As well, the former Irish quarterback did not cite the expected change to the NFL's salary cap structure as a deciding factor.
"No not at all," Clausen answered when asked directly. "A lot of people talk about the rookie salary cap but like Golden said, this is just the right time for us to go out. I don't think we could have done more than we did this past year...I think this is just the best time for us to go out."
Tate provided both unintentional and quick-witted comedic value to the sometimes emotional proceedings, first (unknowingly) sitting in the chair obviously intended for Clausen (a massive poster of the pair with accompanying television highlights playing on either side was set-up behind the speakers' table) then offering this gem when asked about his draft prospects.
"I've talked to a few people and they predict that I'll go somewhere between the first and seventh round," Tate jokingly observed of the seven-round NFL Draft in late April. Tate also answered a question about his future baseball prospects with a crowd pleasing: "Who knows, maybe in five or six years I'll enter some softball league."
Clausen, somber for the early portions of the session, nearly broke down when asked about the impact of his decision on his family.
"They're real excited. You saw me tearing up (earlier). It's a dream come true for me and I think it's a dream come true for them," Clausen offered before noticeably choking up again. "I put a lot of hard work and time to get to this point in my life and I couldn't have done anything without each and every one of them standing up top (Clausen's family was in the crowd at the top of the auditorium).
Clausen added that the thing he'd miss most about Notre Dame were the people he met along the way…apparently all of them.
"I've had so many great relationships here at Notre Dame. All of my teachers and professors to the people in the Dining Halls to the campus police, the security (laughter), you know, coaches, everyone like that…it's been a great experience. It's just a great place to be with great people. "
What Might Have Been
Tate and Clausen both expressed regret (when asked) about not winning as much as they had hoped as collegians.
"When you come to a college program you want to go to the national championship and win as many games as you can. Obviously we didn't do that and didn't reach our full potential but at the same time it's the next step in our lives. I think it's time for us to move on but I'll always be there for these guys (his teammates) if they need anything."
Clausen was also asked about his legacy at the school.
"To be honest I don't know. To be honest I think that's still to be determined. I think I left this place better than I found it and met so many great people here. I hope they can say that about me. It's been a special time here. When I think about not being here next semester and next year it just gives me the chills and I couldn't ask for anything more."
The pair offered they both planned to return to attain their degrees from the University and reiterated that it was the right decision to forgo a bowl game this season.