Blair Kiel, the former Notre Dame quarterback and punter who played for Tampa Bay, Indianapolis and Green Bay in the NFL, died Sunday. He was 50.
Blair Kiel’s nephew, Gunner Kiel, is a freshman quarterback on the 2012 Notre Dame football roster.
Bartholmew County Coroner Allen Smith said Kiel died at Columbus
Regional Hospital. Smith said an autopsy has been performed and
that he's waiting on toxicology results and tissue samples to determine the cause of death.
A Columbus, Ind., product, Kiel played for the Irish from 1980-83 and started all or major parts of all four seasons, qualifying him as the first four-year starter for Notre Dame at the quarterback position since Gus Dorais in 1910-13.
He completed 297 career throws (only Terry Hanratty with 304 had completed more at the time Kiel finished his college career) on 609 attempts for 3,650 yards, 17 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. He also punted 260 times for a 40.67-yard average that ranked second only behind Bill Shakespeare’s 40.71-yard mark (Kiel set a Notre Dame career mark with his 10,534 punting yards). Kiel also rushed 165 times for 164 career yards and five TDs.
Kiel came on the scene for the final offensive series of Notre Dame’s epic 1980 29-27 win over Michigan, led the Irish on the final drive that produced Harry Oliver’s game-winning field goal--and held onto the starting signal-calling job most of the remainder of his Irish career.
As a freshman in 1980, Kiel led the Irish to the number-one ranking and a Sugar Bowl matchup with top-rated Georgia. For the season he completed 48 of 124 throws for 531 yards. He also rushed 71 times for 148 yards and three TDs—and he played more minutes in 1980 (250) than any freshman Notre Dame quarterback since Dorais.
As a sophomore in ’81 he completed 67 of 151 for 936 yards and seven TDs—to go with 31 rushes for 53 yards and one TD. In 1982 as a junior Kiel connected on 118 of 219 passes for 1,273 yards and three TDs. His .539 completion percentage that year ranked fourth all-time at that point in the Notre Dame records. As a senior in ’83, Kiel hit 64 of 115 passes for 910 yards and seven TDs.
In the 1982 opener (the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium) against Michigan, Kiel completed 15 of 22 passes for 141 yards in the 23-17 Irish win. Then in the season finale at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Kiel completed 11 of 19 passes for 151 yards in the 19-18 Irish victory. He also helped the Irish to a win that season over number-one-ranked and unbeaten Pittsburgh.
Kiel set the record for the longest pass completion in Notre Dame history – a 96-yarder to Joe Howard against Georgia Tech in 1981.
He was a former prep all-star at Columbus East (Ind.) High School, throwing for 4,214 yards and leading East to a state title as a senior in 1979.
An 11th-round pick of the NFL Tampa Bay Bucs in 1984, Kiel played for Tampa in 1984-85, Indianapolis in 1986-87 and Green Bay in 1988 (he played in one game that season) and also in 1990 and 1991. He also was listed on Canadian Football League rosters in Saskatchewan (1989) and Toronto (1992) and an Arena Football League roster with Cincinnati (1993).
There will be a private funeral for Kiel on Wednesday. Memorial contributions may be made to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Indiana.