Quick turnaround: Kiser goes from scout team to leading tackler by end of week
Ellen Geyer | Monday, September 21, 2020
Jack Kiser was on the scout team this week.
The sophomore linebacker didn’t have much expectation for getting minutes. He played four snaps against Duke. He played four games last season.
Saturday he started. And he found out about it just hours before the game began.
“Playing on scout team, your goal is always to make it up and get to the next level. When I found out [that I was playing] it’s mentally: alright, let’s go. I knew the game plan,” Kiser said. “That’s one thing Coach Lea does a really good job of during the week — it’s making sure every guy in the room knows the game plan, no matter if you’re going to scout team or not. And so when I got the news [I was starting] I was like: alright, let’s go. It’s time to play.”
Kiser didn’t just play. He led the team in total tackles and solo tackles, and tied for first in tackles for loss. His eight tackles against USF were the first eight of his career. The prize for his efforts? The game ball.
“Jack Kiser was given the game ball for his play, and the reaction in the locker room, you know, was pretty impressive in terms of — I think everybody was excited when he got the game ball,” head coach Brian Kelly said post-game.
Kiser himself was almost at a loss for words when describing what the honor — and his team’s reaction to it — meant to him.
“It’s confirmation that all that hard work that you put in working in the shadows, the guys in the locker room see that,” Kiser said. “I don’t know. It was great. It was awesome.”
The sophomore played a larger-than-anticipated role against the Bulls due to the unexpected absences of sophomore and junior linebackers Marist Liufau and Shayne Simon, the two players in front of him at Buck on the depth chart. Despite finding out that he’d be starting Saturday morning, Kiser stepped in seamlessly. Kelly attributed the success of that transition to exceptional levels of preparation.
“He’s well-coached. He’s a great student,” he said. “He’s just smart. He does extra work to prepare. He’s a remarkable young man and … [he] put himself in a position where he [could] lead our team in tackles.”
For his part, Kiser admitted the reality of his situation hasn’t really sunk in. As a kid from small-town Indiana, simply being on the team is special. Being one of its top performers is an even more unbelievable honor.
“Notre Dame is the peak of [the] mountain in terms of college football, and especially in Indiana. Wearing a golden helmet? Just to be on the team — those are dreams of many kids here in the state of Indiana,” he said. “To put the helmet on, walk down that staircase and then get on that field — it’s surreal. To actually take live snaps and contribute to the defense and contribute to a win? That’s amazing. And then to get the game ball? You don’t think like things like that will happen to you. And it’s about the guys in the locker and when they found out and during the whole game. They’re always right there supporting me and having my back.
“That just gives you all the confidence in the world.”