On Saturday the school announced the junior defensive tackle will delay the next step of his football career for another season, returning to graduate from the University in May and then help the Irish compete for the College Football Playoff come fall.
Irish Illustrated reported before the Music City Bowl that Day had received a “stay in school” grade from the NFL’s advisory committee for underclassmen and that he was almost certain to come back. However, a source close to Day said the defensive lineman was serious about making the NFL jump now and had been advised he could go as high as the third or fourth round in this spring’s draft.
Day will now wait another year to find out.
“After talking with my family, friends and coaches at Notre Dame, I've decided to return for my senior year with the Irish,” Day said in a statement. “While the process leading up to this decision was difficult, ultimately my decision to return was easy. I love this school, my teammates and this coaching staff. I just felt it was in my best interest to play another year for Notre Dame.”
A return should boost Day’s draft stock assuming he can navigate his senior season in full health. Knee and ankle injuries have dogged Day throughout his career, causing him to miss significant time each of the past two seasons. Despite all that he’s still started 19 career games to post 96 tackles, 58 solo stops, 16.5 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hurries and 3½ sacks.
Day’s return means the defense should bring back 10 starters off last season’s squad, not including cornerback Keivarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams following their suspensions last fall. Both have stated they intend to be back with the Irish for their senior years.
"It pretty much goes without saying that I'm excited to know that Sheldon has chosen to return for his senior year at Notre Dame," said head coach Brian Kelly in a statement. "Most importantly, this decision keeps him on track to graduate in May.
"He's an outstanding player, and makes a major difference on the field for our team, but Sheldon's impact goes beyond success on the field. His leadership as a captain in our program has been instrumental, and I look forward to him carrying this role into 2015.”
Day and Nick Martin both return among Notre Dame’s captains from last season.
Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley’s draft decision is expected in the next 48 hours with Notre Dame’s spring semester set to begin Tuesday.
"My dream of playing in the National Football League remains strong, but when I chose to attend Notre Dame three years ago, I planned on earning a degree from this University," Day said. "I'm only one semester away from reaching that goal. A diploma from Notre Dame is truly special, and ultimately, it wasn't something I was willing to possibly leave on the table."