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Football: Eifert chosen by Bengals in first round of NFL Draft

Mike Monaco | Friday, April 26, 2013

For the third time in two years a Notre Dame player was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft as the Cincinnati Bengals took former Irish tight end Tyler Eifert with the 21st pick Thursday night.

After deciding to return to Notre Dame following his junior campaign, Eifert hauled in 50 receptions for a team-best 685 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. The 6-foot-6, 251-pound Fort Wayne, Ind. native won the John Mackey Award as the top tight end in the nation. In the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, Eifert recorded six grabs for 61 yards.

Eifert, who is Notre Dame’s all-time leader in receptions (140) and receiving yards (1,840) by a tight end, is the highest-picked Irish tight end since 1993, when Irv Smith went 20th overall.

“This is such an exciting time for Tyler and his family,” Irish head 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 [Thursday]. 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.”

In 2012, former Irish receiver Michael Floyd was chosen with the 13th pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Later in the first round, the Minnesota Vikings selected former Irish safety Harrison Smith with the 29th overall pick.

Former linebacker Manti Te’o, a projected first-round pick by many draft experts, is still on the board after Thursday’s opening round.

Te’o had a historic senior season, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Te’o, who racked up 113 total tackles and seven interceptions in 2012, won a bevy of postseason accolades, including the Maxwell Award for the most outstanding player and the Bronko Nagurski Award for the defensive player of the year.

The draft continues Friday with the second and third rounds, followed by the remaining four rounds Saturday. In addition to Te’o, other Notre Dame draft hopefuls include safeties Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter, running back Cierre Wood, running back/receiver Theo Riddick, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and offensive linemen Braxston Cave and Mike Golic, Jr.

The second round begins at 6:30 p.m. in New York.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu