Steve Elmer will walk away from the Notre Dame football program.
On Tuesday the offensive lineman from Midland, Mich., announced plans to graduate from the University this spring and pursue a work opportunity in Washington D.C.. That means Elmer won’t play out his final season of eligibility, leaving as a 30-game starter after enrolling four years ago as one of Brian Kelly’s first prized recruits.
It also means the Irish will return just two starters on the offensive line next season in tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson.
Elmer announced his plans to leave the program in an essay published on the school’s website. Elmer spent part of last summer working on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.
“While playing football for Notre Dame has been nothing short of an honor, I have been presented with an incredible opportunity to pursue a career doing something in which I have great interest, and at a great company to boot,” Elmer wrote. “The experience of balancing Notre Dame's academic rigors with my football commitments has given me a great foundation for my next endeavor.”
Elmer was the first commitment in Kelly’s best recruiting class and at the time was the earliest Irish pledge in the modern recruiting rankings era. The four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American enrolled early and moved into the starting lineup by mid-season. He’s the only Kelly recruit on the offensive line to start a game as a true freshman.
The departure leaves Notre Dame short on the line, part of the reason why career reserve Mark Harrell could return for a fifth year. With Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin headed to the NFL and Elmer leaving the program the Irish must replace 106 combined starts among the three.
Nelson and McGlinchey are both locks to start this fall, although their positions are less certain. While it wouldn’t make sense to shift Nelson to right guard from left, McGlinchey could flip sides to take over at left tackle for Stanley, who made the same shift after Zack Martin’s departure.
Alex Bars, unlikely to compete during spring practice after suffering a broken ankle last season against USC, could take over at right guard or right tackle. But with Bars sidelined, rising seniors Hunter Bivin and Colin McGovern are likely to get shots at tackle and guard, respectively.
Sam Mustipher will compete with Tristen Hoge at center, where Notre Dame must replace Martin, a two-time captain.
"No matter how excited I am about what the future has in store for me, the question that inevitably comes up is: why don't you just wait until next year? My answer is pretty simple; the excitement I feel about the professional opportunity in front of me has helped me to realize that I'm just ready to be done with football,” Elmer wrote. "I've been playing this game for many years, and quite honestly my heart is no longer in it. I realize that this may be considered sacrilege to some, but it's truth. What I do love, and where my heart will always be, is the University of Notre Dame."