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KeiVarae Russell becomes latest Notre Dame player to enter draft

| Monday, January 4, 2016

Continuing a recent spate of decisions, senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell told Sports Illustrated on Monday that he is leaving Notre Dame to enter the NFL Draft this upcoming spring.

Senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell is helped off the field after breaking his tibia against Boston College on Nov. 21.Observer File Photo
Senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell is helped off the field after breaking his tibia against Boston College on Nov. 21.

Russell is the fourth Irish player with eligibility remaining to have declared for the draft. Senior offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley, senior running back C.J. Prosise and junior receiver Will Fuller all announced their intentions over the previous few weeks, with Prosise’s and Fuller’s decisions coming Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Russell missed Notre Dame’s 44-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State this past Friday and the team’s final regular season game against Stanford due to a broken tibia he suffered Nov. 21 against Boston College. His recovery from that injury was projected to be six to eight weeks, and Russell told reporters at the Fiesta Bowl that his rehab is ahead of schedule.

In 11 starts this season, Russell had 60 tackles, two interceptions, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles as the team’s top cornerback. He is projected by several analysts as a second- or third-round pick.

As a senior, Russell had another year of eligibility after missing the entirety of the 2014 season due to an academic investigation and suspension. Had he returned to Notre Dame, he would have needed NCAA approval, something former teammate Ishaq Williams, who was also involved in the academic investigation, did not receive. However, Russell told Sports Illustrated the NCAA decision was not a factor in his decision.

Because of his tibia, Russell said he would not participate in the physical drills at the NFL Combine. Instead, he will work out at Notre Dame’s Pro Day in March.

Now, the only remaining Irish player who has yet to make a decision about staying or leaving for the NFL is junior linebacker Jaylon Smith. Smith suffered what head coach Brian Kelly called a “significant knee injury” in the Fiesta Bowl but was projected as a top-10 pick beforehand.

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