MIAMI — Let the record show that Gunner Kiel indeed does have a chest.
He stuck it out when reporters (OK, me) peppered him with questions about what Les Miles said about him in February, that he didn’t have the “chest” to be an LSU quarterback after decommitting from LSU and eventually signing with Notre Dame.
Since Miles’ season ended with a frustrating Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson that itself ended with questionable end-game clock management and Kiel is here with Notre Dame prepping for the BCS title game against Alabama, some might be tempted to trot out the word “karma.”
Let the record also show Miles later pulled back from the stinging indictment of Kiel’s character to a degree, saying that if Kiel thought being closer to his Columbus, Ind., home was more important, then Notre Dame was where he should have gone.
Kiel on Saturday took the high road, though he detoured to criticize himself en route.
“I’ve always respected coach Miles,” Kiel said. “I’m not going to throw him under the bus, because I think he’s a great coach in everything he stands for.
“I don’t blame him at all. I was dumb during the recruiting process. I couldn’t make up my mind, but I was also doing what was best for me at the time, which was picking a college.”
While it’s impossible to criticize his college choice, as a player, Kiel is stuck in neutral. Playing Alabama’s AJ McCarron as Notre Dame’s scout team quarterback is as close to the action as he will get.
Had he come to LSU, he would have fought it out with Stephen Rivers and Rob Bolden (remember him?) to be Zach Mettenberger’s backup. Maybe he would have redshirted, maybe not, but he might well have become the Tigers’ starter in 2014.
Saturday, Kiel sat in the stands at Sun Life Stadium with many of his Notre Dame teammates, while down on the field sophomore quarterback Everett Golson occupied one of six podiums along side coach Brian Kelly and Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o.
Conventional wisdom says Golson will be Notre Dame’s starter the next two seasons with Kiel not likely to get his shot until his redshirt junior season in 2015. Despite that, Kiel insists he is at peace with his place now. After committing and decommitting from Indiana and LSU (he was also recruited by Alabama), this is where he wants to be.
“It’s a special place,” Kiel said. “I couldn’t be happier here.”
Kiel said the only thing he would change about his recruitment is not what Miles said, but what Kiel did.
“I overexamined everything and took everything over the top with recruiting and made it more stressful instead of just enjoying the process,” he said. “If I could do it again, I would probably go more places and just enjoy myself.”
But the past can’t be undone. Now Kiel is left to bide his time, and wait for an uncertain future to play itself out.
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