Just over a year ago, Gunner Kiel, the now ex-Notre Dame quarterback, shocked the recruiting landscape by leaving LSU in a lurch and staying home to go to Notre Dame. Now, as Irish Sports Daily reported Thursday evening, Kiel is again making waves on the collegiate landscape, this time by transferring away from South Bend—and it's the right choice.
As expected, the jokes about Kiel's chest started, as did the complaining about his lack of commitment. Ultimately, like Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press, I'm not much for criticizing a kid who just wants to be happy with his situation.
I don't really get all the harsh feelings and need to take shots at Gunner Kiel. Hope the kid finds a good place to play and does well.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) March 8, 2013
The Kiel situation is certainly complex: indecision up to the 11th hour prior to his enrollment at Notre Dame, a logjam on the depth chart in South Bend and an overall sense that Notre Dame might not have been where he wanted to be.
Michael Scarborough of Rivals.com (via USA Today) said in January 2012 that Kiel decommitted from LSU under pressure from his family. Had Kiel had his way during the 2012 recruiting cycle, all signs pointed to him enrolling at LSU to play for Les Miles. That would've meant competing with Zach Mettenberger in spring of 2012, possibly seeing time during the regular season and, most importantly, being at the school that he thought suited him during the process.
As we've discussed here at Your Best 11 time and again, college football is not something you can do well if you're not happy. If you're miserable with respect to your situation, due to location or playing time, college football can be your own personal hell.
I must say, when I interviewed Kiel at BCS championship game media day, he was doing his best to put a happy face on the situation.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) March 8, 2013
It doesn't matter that people on the outside see you as privileged or that they would trade places with you in a heartbeat. What matters is doing for self. Thus, in that regard, it is good to see Kiel take that step to do for self. After all, there's nothing noble or honorable about sitting around being unhappy in order to merely appease a lot of people who do not have to live your life.
As for the "get over it" crowd, there's a mighty difference between a player who wants to leave and a guy who just wishes he played. Players all over the country wish they got to play or wish they played more; that's not the issue. The issue becomes a problem when the overall situation for the individual player takes its toll. Hence the need to remember that these guys are more than just football robots. Different guys handle things in different ways.
Kiel's next step is going to be a big one. Hopefully, for his sake, he makes a decision based upon his comfort and what makes him happy. That has to be the end game in all of this. If his transfer is to an FBS school, he'll sit out the 2013 season, and at no time during a player's career is his zeal for a location tested more than when playing isn't even an option.
I hope Kiel finds a school that makes him happy and allows him to get exactly what he wants out of his college football experience—the same thing I wish for every kid playing the game out there. It will be interesting to see where Kiel lands, and as teams go through spring ball and assess their future needs, expect the recruitment of the former top-ranked quarterback to pick up.