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January 5, 2014

Tuitt turns pro

Stephon Tuitt said Notre Dame's recent history wouldn't sway him.

It didn't.

On Sunday night the All-American defensive end declared for the NFL draft, ending Notre Dame's recent run of elite talent sticking around for its senior year. Under Brian Kelly the Irish program faced draft decisions from Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin and Louis Nix, getting all four back for their fourth years.

"Thanks for a wonderful three years at the best University on earth," Tuitt posted on Twitter. "I will forever be IRISH."

Sports Illustrated first reported the departure.

Tuitt becomes the exception to Notre Dame's run, joining Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate and Darius Walker as Irish players to go three-and-out.

The Tuitt dents Notre Dame's hopes to make a College Football Playoff run next season and maintains Justin Tuck's position as the program's all-time leader in sacks at 24.5. Tuitt, who posted 1.5 sacks in the Pinstripe Bowl and did not speak to reporters afterward, closes his Irish career at 21.5 sacks.

Tuitt received a second round grade from the draft advisory board, a draft rating that's often conservative in nature. Head coach Brian Kelly revealed that rating barely four days before what would prove to be Tuitt's final game.

The decision to bolt for the NFL wasn't a surprise, despite Tuitt's awkward claim during the season that he planned to return. Tuitt told Notre Dame's student newspaper, The Observer that he intended to finish his college career before moving to the next level.

Barely 24 hours later Tuitt and Kelly tracked back from those comments.

After the team's awards show in December, Tuitt was much more open to the prospect to leaving Notre Dame a year early, saying that he was "50/50" about staying for his senior year or turning pro.

"The big-time decision will be what it comes up to be with my family," Tuitt said. "Coming back with my teammates and enjoying my last year with them will be my big-time decision to go on."

Tuitt estimated that he's still a year away from earning his Notre Dame degree.

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