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Saturday, March 24, 2012
Gunner Kiel's focus on QB race

By Matt Fortuna

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Just because Gunner Kiel should still be in high school right now does not mean he is absolved from the tantrums each of his current teammates have received at one point or another.

"I don't think I've gotten the full, full red-face look yet," Kiel quipped Saturday of coach Brian Kelly during his first meeting with reporters since enrolling at Notre Dame.

"It's not really yelling. He's just been coaching me more," Kiel said. "Whenever he yells it's for a reason: You know you've done something wrong, you know it. He's just there to help you. So he's a really good coach and I feel really honored to play for him."

Gunner Kiel
After a hectic recruiting process, QB Gunner Kiel said he's found happiness at Notre Dame.
Kiel came to the conclusion that Kelly and Notre Dame were the right fit for him after a dizzying recruitment that saw the Columbus East (Ind.) quarterback switch his allegiance from Indiana to LSU before showing up on Notre Dame's campus and enrolling Jan. 17, prompting Tigers coach Les Miles to publicly question Kiel's leadership abilities at a national signing day banquet.

"You can't really control that," Kiel said. "I did pull out at the last minute. I still have all the respect for LSU. Their fans definitely understood. LSU is a great place, but it wasn't the best fit for me. I'm a Midwest guy and I like to stay close. I'm just going to use that as fuel, but I'm not going to disrespect him in any way, shape or form. He's a great coach and they're a great team.

"But I feel great to be at Notre Dame. Love the place, love the guys, love the coaches, love the surroundings. It’s a great community, they're all welcoming, everyone is really nice. It's definitely the perfect fit for me."

Harsh weather when Kiel arrived to Notre Dame led to confusion for the newcomer, who said he got lost going to classes on his first day amidst the snow-covered campus. An unusually warm start to spring practices this week, however, has been refreshing as he dives he into his college academic work and a four-man quarterback race.

"It's completely different from high school," Kiel said. "And knowing, like for me, my high school just had spring break this week, so knowing I had to go to school and get up early and work out was like, 'Dang.' But it feels good to be here. To be a part of this team is very special to me and it turned out for the best for sure."

Kiel said he has been able to block out the distractions surrounding his recruitment and eventual choice of the Irish, as he hopes to beat out three others for the starting quarterback job this fall.

Such are expectations with a prospect rated as the top player in his state and No. 3 quarterback in the nation by ESPNU.

"Things got pretty hectic with recruiting," Kiel said. "But I had a great supporting cast behind me. My family was always there for me, my friends. Staying close definitely meant a lot. Of course I want my family to come and watch me play. And knowing that I can go home on the weekends, I can get away from something crazy. If I have a rough week, I can go home on a weekend and recharge my batteries. I thought that was definitely huge for me."

Right now, though, he is just happy to be at Notre Dame, roughly four hours from home, with the whirlwind recruitment process now in the rearview mirror.

"For me, I struggled with recruiting," Kiel said. "I put so much stress on myself and overanalyzed everything that I kept pushing back my decision, and I just kept freaking out whenever I wanted to get into something. Whenever I would settle, I would just have one foot in instead of jumping in. I would just freak out at the last minute, I guess. So I just stressed myself out and got overwhelmed a little bit."