NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Former University of Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round (139th overall), cornerback Bennett Jackson was taken by the New York Giants in the sixth round (187th overall) and wide receiver TJ Jones was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round (189th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. The trio gives the Irish eight draft picks for the first time since 1994 when Notre Dame had 10 players selected.
Notre Dame's eight selections in the top 200 picks of the NFL Draft were only equaled by Alabama and LSU. With Shembo and Jackson getting drafted, the starting defense that led the Irish to the 2013 BCS National Championship game has seen eight starters drafted over the last two seasons.
Shembo saw action in 51 games and started 35 over his career. He registered 145 tackles, 71 solo stops and 24.5 tackles for loss, including 19.5 sacks. Shembo's 19.5 career sacks ranks tied for sixth in school history. He was the fourth Notre Dame player to ever register three or more sacks in multiple games - joining Justin Tuck, Victor Abiamiri and Bert Berry.
Shembo started each of the last 26 games of for the Irish. In 2013, he registered 48 tackles, 26 solo stops, 5.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Shembo added a forced fumble and recorded a team-best 17 quarterback hurries. His 17 quarterback hurries are the most by an Irish player since 2004 (when the stat started to be consistently recorded). Shembo did not register a sack over Notre Dame's first five games, but exploded for three in the victory over Arizona State (Oct. 5), which tied for the seventh-most by an FBS player in a single game in '13. Shembo had 51 tackles, 10.5 for loss and 7.5 sacks as a junior in 2012.
Jackson played in all 52 games over his career and started all 26 games in 2012 and 2013. He finished his career with 157 tackles, 106 solo stops, 13 passes defended, 6.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Jackson also added 32 career kick returns for 677 yards.
Jackson, a tri-captain as a senior, started all 13 games at cornerback in 2013. He led the Irish secondary, and ranked fourth overall, with 64 tackles. Jackson tied for second on the team with two interceptions. He also recorded 5.0 tackles for loss, one sack, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. Jackson intercepted a pass, broke up another, and made three tackles at Stanford (Nov. 30). He collected a fourth-quarter, 34-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped ensure Notre Dame's win at Purdue (Sept. 14).
Jackson and second-round NFL Draft pick Troy Niklas continue a trend that has followed Irish head coach Brian Kelly at his previous coaching stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Jackson and Niklas joined the Notre Dame program as a wide receiver and linebacker, respectively. Jackson played one season (2010) as a wideout before Kelly and the Irish staff felt his future was at cornerback. Niklas played in 12 games as a reserve in 2011. He totaled 20 tackles, including eight solo stops. Thus, Jackson and Niklas join the likes of Joe Staley from Central Michigan, as well as Jason Kelce and Connor Barwin from Cincinnati. All five opened their respective careers under Kelly at one position before ultimately getting drafted into the NFL at another position. Staley was a first-round choice in 2007, while Barwin (2009) and Niklas (2014) were second-round picks and Kelce (2011) and Jackson (2014) were sixth-round selections.
Jones, tri-captain and Monogram Club MVP as a senior in 2013, played in 51 games and started 37. He finished his career with 181 catches for 2,429 yards and 19 touchdowns, which ranks second, sixth and tied for sixth, respectively, in school history. Jones is one of six wideouts in school history with at least 150 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdown grabs.
Jones led the Irish in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2013. He was the seventh wide out in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. His 70 catches, 1,108 yards and nine touchdown catches rank seventh, seventh and tied for ninth, respectively, in single-season school history. Jones recorded 100-yard receiving games on five different occasions in 2013 - tied for the fourth-most in school history. He also registered a touchdown grab in seven consecutive games during one stretch of the season, which is the second-longest streak in school history.
SHEMBO'S PLACE IN THE IRISH RECORD BOOKS
Single-Game Sacks (Oct. 5, 2013 vs. Arizona State, 3.0, t-5th)
Single-Game Sacks (Nov. 10, 2012 at Boston College, 3.0, t-5th)
Career Sacks (2010-13, 19.5, t-6th)
SHEMBO'S HONORS & AWARDS
Participated in the 2014 East-West Shrine Game
Notre Dame Defensive Player of the Year (2013)
Bednarik Award Watch List (2013)
Butkus Award Watch List (2013)
Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List (2013)
College Football Performance Awards Honorable Mention Linebacker (10.7.13)
College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Performer of the Week (11.11.12)
College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Lineman of the Week (11.11.12)
FBS Independent Defensive Player of the Week (11.11.12)
SHEMBO'S CAREER HIGHS
Tackles: 9, at Michigan State, Sept. 15, 2012 (3-6)
Sacks: 3.0, at Boston College, Nov. 10, 2012 (3-0); vs. Arizona State, Oct. 5, 2013 (3-0)
Tackles for loss: 4.0, at Boston College, Nov. 10, 2012 (4-0)
Fumbles forced: 1, at Pittsburgh, Nov. 9, 2013; at Boston College, Oct. 2, 2010
Fumbles recovered: 1, at Boston College, Nov. 10, 2012
Pass breakups: 1, Pittsburgh, Nov. 3, 2012
JONES' PLACE IN THE IRISH RECORD BOOKS
Single-Season 100-Yard Receiving Games (2013, 5, t-4th)