SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football has lost another starter for the upcoming season, but it's not by way of the draft, transfer or some disciplinary issue.
Right guard Steve Elmer, a two-year starter who also logged four starts as a true freshman in 2013, announced Tuesday in a first-person piece released by Notre Dame that he will forgo his final season of athletic eligibility with the Irish, graduate in May and begin his professional career this summer in the Washington, D.C., area:
I have no problems with the coaching staff, no academic issues and no violations of team rules that normally come along with a statement like this. My reasons for cutting my playing career short have nothing to do with any negative experiences at Notre Dame; in fact, I would consider my commitment to this exceptional university the best decision I have ever made.
After 3 unforgettable years, I've decided to forgo my final season of athletic eligibility. I'll always be Irish!https://t.co/a1svK9qCdK— Steven Elmer (@Steve_Elmer) February 16, 2016
Last summer, Elmer served as a congressional intern to John Moolenaar of Michigan and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania. Elmer said in his statement he's been presented with an opportunity to pursue a career with "a great company."
Elmer talked about why he felt this was the right time to walk away from football:
The question that inevitably comes up is: why don't you just wait until next year? My answer is pretty simple; the excitement I feel about the professional opportunity in front of me has helped me to realize that I'm just ready to be done with football. I've been playing this game for many years, and quite honestly my heart is no longer in it.
"Notre Dame is a special place that develops unique and talented people," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. "Steve Elmer is such a person. ... This is an incredible professional opportunity for Steve. We as a coaching staff talk about how attending Notre Dame isn't a four-year decision. Rather, it's a 40-year investment into your life.
"This University provides so many different avenues toward success, whether that's on the football field or in the boardroom, and Steve’s another outstanding example."
As for on the football field, the Irish lose another starter. Left guard Quenton Nelson and right tackle Mike McGlinchey are now the only returning starters on the offensive line. The offense, as a whole, must replace its 1,000-yard rusher (C.J. Prosise), its top three receivers (Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle) and its two best linemen (left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Nick Martin).
There are now a variety of ways Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand could shape his unit for 2016. The discussion starts with third-year lineman Alex Bars, who logged two starts in place of Nelson in October before suffering a season-ending fractured ankle. Bars and Nelson could man the guard spots, or perhaps one could move out to the tackle spot opposite McGlinchey.
Sam Mustipher and Tristen Hoge are likely next in line to fill Martin's void at center. Elmer's classmates, seniors Hunter Bivin, John Montelus and Colin McGovern, have been slotted in the two-deep the last few years. Might one of them crack the lineup and bring a veteran presence?
The offensive line is one of the most uncertain position groups on the entire Notre Dame roster.
If this sounds like it was a difficult decision for me, you would be right. My time at Notre Dame is something I will always cherish, leaving me with the best of friends and countless memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I owe so much to this university, not only for giving me the chance to play on college football's biggest stage and preparing me for life beyond the game, but for helping to make me the man I am today.
All I ask from you is that you trust me when I say I know that I have made the right decision.
All quotes were obtained firsthand, and all stats courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.
Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.