INDIANAPOLIS -- DeShone Kizer owned it.
The former Notre Dame quarterback walked into a formal interview with the San Francisco 49ers Wednesday and was bluntly asked how a quarterback with his gifts could lead a Fighting Irish team that collapsed for a 4-8 season. San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch said Thursday that Kizer "blew the doors off" his interview with the club, and Kizer explained why on Friday: He took full responsibility for a proud program's second-worst season since 1963, and ate all eight of those losses.
"After doing a bunch of film study and reflecting on the season, simply put, the ball is in my hands every play, and I just have to make more plays," Kizer said.
That's the sort of accountability that could impress far more teams than just the 49ers. Kizer will continue formal interviews with clubs on Friday night, and will throw passes alongside the 2017 NFL Draft's other top quarterbacks on Saturday. The 49ers are among the teams in need of a quarterback, a fact Lynch wasn't shy to acknowledge.
At 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, he's the biggest of the draft's top quarterbacks, and played in an offense at Notre Dame that will translate to a pro-style system better than his competition to be the top QB drafted. But for all his physical tools, the NFL club that selects him will also expect winning leadership, and it's along those lines that the 49ers interview tested him.
"I'm pretty comfortable opening up and expressing who I am as a guy, and how I plan on going about this process. They had a lot of questions about last season, and how a guy who has the size, has the arm strength, goes and becomes 4-8," Kizer said. "I responded in a way that I thought was the honest truth."
The honest truth also includes the fact that the Fighting Irish offense lost a pair of first-round picks last year in LT Ronnie Stanley and WR Will Fuller who were a big part of a much more successful season Kizer enjoyed as a redshirt freshman in 2015. And while Kizer took responsibility for last season's Irish slide, he conceded that Stanley and Fuller proved to be irreplaceable last year.
"Huge difference. I mean, you're talking about a No. 6 overall draft pick and an early 20s draft pick in Will Fuller. Those guys are talented and detail-oriented. So as their quarterback, my leadership role was a little different," Kizer said. "I was asked more to just execute my job and a lot of other guys around to play their way. This past season, I was asked to be a little more verbal and develop other guys. Unfortunately, I didn't do that well enough."
There's no way to know if that answer will be satisfactory for 32 NFL clubs, but it was apparently just what one of them wanted to hear.