Throughout the twists and turns of the 2009 Notre Dame football season, quarterback Jimmy Clausen
had an impressive ear to hear his concerns.
Former Notre Dame All-American quarterback Joe Theismann had befriended Clausen, who declared for the NFL draft Monday following his junior year in South Bend.
"The discussion (to leave college early) never came up between us. I think he had every intention of going back for his senior year," said Theismann on Monday. "Now that the coaching situation has changed so much, I think it is in his best interests to see what his future looks like. I agree with his decision."
Charlie Weis, who recruited Clausen out of Westlake Village, Calif., was fired as head coach at the end of this season. And Clausen's top receiver, Golden Tate, is also declaring for the NFL draft.
"I think Golden is a bit more polished coming out than anybody," said Theismann. "I mean, what Golden was able to do at a time when he was the focal point, just speaks volumes for his ability. He catches the ball well, he returns kicks well. He's a first-round pick, in my mind."
Clausen leaves Notre Dame after 34 starts, in which the team was 16-18. He ranked second in the country in pass efficiency this season behind Boise State's Kellen Moore.
Clausen was 289-for-425 passing for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns this year with four interceptions. He averaged 310 yards per game passing.
"I said a while back that I was going to tackle (Clausen) if he tried to leave. If Charlie was there, I would have felt that way," Theismann said. "But with so much transition that is going to go on, and so many questions and so many players leaving ... that's what kids look at now. 'What is the team going to look like around me?'
"The fact that he played for Charlie was great. He gave him an opportunity to work from under center, which is very important."
Theismann, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins and was NFL MVP in 1983, said he thinks Clausen can make it in the NFL.
"He is like any young quarterback. There are things that he needs to work on and get better at," Theismann said. "But he certainly has the arm strength. He has proven he has the accuracy. He has proven he has the toughness. And I think, based on the way things are going at the University of Notre Dame ... if professional football is his chosen field, it's probably a good opportunity."
Theismann said Clausen will continue to improve after a rough start at Notre Dame.
"When Jimmy first came to Notre Dame, he was put in a very difficult situation," he said. "There was an awful lot expected of him. And the team around him was very young. ... There was a lot of pressure and it was tough for him. And he handled it very well. I think that in the three years he has been a starter there he has grown, he has matured. ...
"He has a great foundation to become a professional quarterback."