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Floyd to return; Rudolph goes pro

Douglas Farmer | Wednesday, January 19, 2011

EL PASO, Texas — Heading into the Sun Bowl, Notre Dame fans wondered and worried about junior receiver Michael Floyd’s future in an Irish uniform, or perhaps, a lack thereof.

After scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter, Floyd did not ease any of those worries, but less than two weeks later he finally did, announcing on Jan. 12 he would forgo the NFL Draft and instead remain at Notre Dame for his senior year.

“This was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make in my life,” Floyd said via a press release. “On the one hand, there was Notre Dame. This place has been an incredible home to me and the relationships I built here are ones I know I’ll have for the rest of my life.

“On the other hand, there was the NFL. It has always been a lifelong goal to play football at the highest level and that is something I look forward to doing at some point.”

Floyd already holds the Notre Dame records for touchdown receptions in a career — 28 — career receiving yards per game — 84.6 yards — and is second in career receptions with 171. Only Jeff Samardzija has more career receptions than Floyd.

Floyd cited three primary reasons for his return to Notre Dame.

“First, I promised my mom I would graduate from Notre Dame and I am 40 credit hours shy of attaining that goal. I chose to attend Notre Dame in part because I knew it was a 40-year decision and not a four-year decision,” he said. “Second, I want to get Notre Dame back to BCS game. I believe we are very close to returning the Irish to where we belong and I want to be a part of something great.

“Lastly, I want to show everyone in the country that I’m the best wide receiver in college football in 2011.”

After the Sun Bowl, in which Floyd accounted for 109 of freshman quarterback Tommy Rees’ 201 passing yards, Rees admitted he hoped Floyd would return.

“He’s a great player, and we’d love to have him back,” Rees said. “Getting in a groove early is not hard when you’re throwing the ball to Mike. He is such a great player, if you put it anywhere near him, he’s going to make the catch.”

While Floyd pieced together his best statistical season of his career with 79 receptions, 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns, junior tight end Kyle Rudolph watched most of the year from the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

Rudolph last appeared during Notre Dame’s 23-17 victory over Pittsburgh Oct. 9. Since undergoing surgery the following week, Rudolph’s rehab has progressed quicker than expected, and partly due to that, he declared for the NFL Draft on Jan. 5.

“Notre Dame is such a special place and because of all the people I met over the last three years this decision was very tough for me,” Rudolph said. “I truly feel I have grown up here and this has become a home away from home for me.”

Rudolph leaves Notre Dame ranked fourth in career receptions by a tight end and in career receiving yards by a tight end. His performance against Michigan this season ranks as the most receiving yards in a single game by a tight end with 164 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown.

“Kyle Rudolph has a very bright future ahead of him and he will instantly make some lucky NFL team much better next year,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “I know this was a tough decision for Kyle because of the great relationships he formed at Notre Dame and he will be missed in the locker room next year.”