Irish TE Fasano takes pass on senior season

Updated: January 9, 2006, 3:15 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tight end Anthony Fasano decided the lure of the NFL outweighed his desire for winning a national championship at Notre Dame.

The 6-foot-4, 257-pound Fasano, one of the nation's top tight ends, said Monday he will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.

"Being in this position is a lifelong dream of mine," he said. "I realize I am finally able to reach it and I'm going to take advantage of that. It's been a long, hard decision."

Fasano, one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award given to an outstanding tight end, said he made up his mind to turn pro after Ohio State beat the Irish in the Fiesta Bowl. He said coach Charlie Weis supported his decision.

"He wasn't encouraging me to go either way, but he encouraged me to do what's best for me," Fasano said. "He felt ... this was definitely a fine time for me to go."

Weis, who was at the American Football Coaches Association Convention and did not attend the news conference, said in a statement that he backed Fasano's decision.

"Despite the fact we'd love for Anthony to return, we also recognize that he has a great opportunity ahead of him," Weis said.

Fasano, of Verona, N.J., said during the season he probably would not enter the draft unless he would be picked on the first day.

Fasano said the most difficult part of leaving is that the Irish hope to compete for a national championship next season. The Irish finished this season ranked ninth, the highest since 1993, and return most of their key players from their record-setting offense.

"I think that was one of the things that really held me back from saying I was definitely going," he said. "I came here to win a national championship, and I didn't do that. We have an opportunity next year, but personally I think the best decision was to leave at this time."

Fasano is four credit hours shy of receiving his marketing degree. He said he planned to take two independent study classes in the spring so he can graduate in May.

Fasano was Notre Dame's third-leading receiver in 2005 with 47 catches for 576 yards. The school record for tight ends is 54 catches for 797 yards set by Ken MacAfee in 1977.

In three seasons with the Irish, Fasano had 92 catches for 1,123 yards. MacAfee holds the career record with 128 for 1,759 yards.

Fasano's best game this season was against Michigan State, when he had seven catches for 93 yards. He had four catches for 86 yards against USC and a career-long 43-yard touchdown catch against Tennessee. Fasano said the system Weis installed at Notre Dame, which helped New England win three Super Bowls, helped prepare him for the NFL.

"I can't say I could be in a better system to go from college to the NFL," Fasano said. "Along with my position coaches and my other coaches, coach Weis has really developed me. It will make the adjustment easy."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press