One player who will not be joining the charge is Anthony Fasano. The senior declared for the NFL Draft on Monday afternoon and is expected to be represented by agent David Dunn of Athletes First. Fasano will train in California at the agency's workout facility while completing two independent study courses. He is on schedule to graduate with a degree in marketing from the Mendoza School of Business in May.
"Being in this position has been a lifelong dream of mine," Fasano said. "I realize that I can finally reach it and I'm going to take advantage of it. It's been a long, hard decision and I've had some great help along the way."
The decision to leave for Fasano was a hard one for him considering the fact that the Irish will be among the short list of teams competing for a national title in 2006. Brady Quinn, Darius Walker, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight are some of the main reasons why next year's team could put up better numbers than this season's record-breaking group did. But it'll have to be done without Fasano.
"That was one of the things that really held me back from saying I'm definitely going," Fasano said of the 2006 national title prospects. "I came here to win a national championship. I didn't do that. We have a great opportunity to do so next year but I think personally the best decision was for me to leave at this time."
Weis, who like Fasano is from New Jersey and shares an affinity with him for their home state, appreciates what he brought to the football program.
"Despite the fact that we'd love for Anthony to return, we also recognize that he has a great opportunity ahead of him," Weis said. "Anthony has been a great asset to the Notre Dame football program over the last four years and he's graduating this spring, leaving with a Notre Dame degree. He's meant a lot to this program and is going to be missed both on and off the field. We wish him the best with this decision and in all of his future endeavors."
Fasano capped his time at Notre Dame with a career year. He caught 47 balls for 576 yards this season, shattering his old marks in these two categories. The 47 grabs are the second most ever in a single season by an Irish tight end. Ken MacAfee had 54 catches in 1977. Fasano, also known for his blocking skills, was one of the three finalists for the John Mackey Tight End Award and finishes second in Notre Dame history on the career reception and yards list for a tight end.
Where Fasano is taken in the NFL Draft is anyone's guess. Maryland's Vernon Davis declared early last week and is already among draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr.'s Top 10 prospects. UCLA's Marcedes Lewis, this year's John Mackey Award winner, and Georgia's Leonard Pope will also compete with Fasano in the tight end pecking order. Fasano does have one advantage over the others. He got to play a season in Weis's pro style offensive system.
"I couldn't have been in a better system to go from college to the NFL," Fasano said. "Along with my position coaches, Coach Weis has really developed me and will make the adjustment easy."
John Carlson appears the likely replacement next season for Fasano. In his career, Carlson has caught only 13 balls for 87 yards and a touchdown but those numbers should skyrocket next year with more playing time. The Irish struck gold in the recruiting season when they landed a verbal commitment from Konrad Reuland. The incoming freshman from California is 6-6, 240 pounds and will benefit from Weis's philosophy of not being afraid to play freshman right away.