Hoosier native Jack Kiser living out his dream at Notre Dame
Notre Dame linebacker Jack Kiser grew up just 90 miles from the university. For the Hoosier native, and Indiana’s 2018 Mr. Football, playing for the Irish is a dream come true.
“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,” Kiser said.
Kiser was one of those kids. He grew up in a rural community 90 miles from South Bend.
“I talk to guys on the team, 'I'm from a small town,' and they're like, 'Where? What do you call it?'” Kiser said.
He’s from Royal Center, Indiana, where there is one blinking yellow stoplight.
It’s a small town with big football pride.
Adam Berry is the head coach of the Pioneer Panthers.
The team has won state championships in 1997, 2017 and 2018.
Coach Berry said Kiser was a strong leader.
"In the weight room, he was never a guy that you had to challenge. He was going to challenge himself and he was one, if he saw one of his teammates slacking a little bit, he'd be the one to get on them and say, 'Hey, we're in this together. I can't do it by myself. We need to be a whole team," Berry said.
Kiser led Pioneer to consecutive state championships and is one of the most decorated football players to ever come out of the Hoosier state.
"Sophomore, junior and senior year, he was a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000 passer, which some of the first ones in Pioneer history. So he just developed offensively and defensively,” Berry said.
In 2019, Kiser signed his letter of intent to play football at Notre Dame.
“Your goal is always to make it up and get to the next level, so when I found out, it's just a mentality of like, 'Alright, let's go,'” Kaiser said.
On a Saturday afternoon against South Florida, Kiser’s number was finally called.
“He’s smart. He does extra work. He does extra work to prepare. He’s just a remarkable young man,” Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly said.
From the practice squad to game day hero.
“To put the helmet on, walk down that staircase, and then get on that field, it's surreal. Then to actually take live snaps and contribute to the defense and contribute to a win, that's amazing. Then to get the game ball, you just don't think things like that will happen to you,” Kiser.
Kiser's dream is just still coming true.
“I think I still have room to improve in everything. That was my first game playing defense, so there's a lot of improvement still left,” Kiser said.
Coach Berry isn’t at all surprised about Kiser’s success.
"He just embodies what it means to be a panther. He got the job done in the classroom, you know, Lily Scholarship winner, Valedictorian, I mean the leader of his class. Now, our young kids can see what hard work, dedication can be. So, he's a great role model for the kids around this community,” Berry.
Because of Kiser, kids in Royal Center have one more reason to dream big.
“To represent Royal Center and Pioneer and honestly Indiana, it just feels great,” Kiser said.
Kiser is not listed on this week's depth chart against Florida State and is not expected to play.
When asked about the depth chart on Thursday, Coach Kelly only said Kiser is “unavailable.”