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Notre Dame's Niklas to enter NFL draft

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft, the fourth Irish player to announce he is leaving with a year of eligibility left.

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Michael Bertsch, Notre Dame's director of football media relations, confirmed on Friday the 6-foot-7, 270-pound junior from Fullerton, Calif., has informed coach Brian Kelly of his decision.

''I have made the very difficult decision to pursue my childhood dream,'' Niklas said in a statement. He intends to return to Notre Dame and earn his degree.

Niklas started all 13 games for the Irish and was third on the team in receiving with 32 catches for 498 yards and five touchdowns.

Niklas is the fourth Irish player with eligibility left to declare for this year's draft. He joins defensive linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt and running back George Atkinson III.

Niklas, Tuitt and Atkinson are all leaving after just three years at Notre Dame, which nearly doubles since 1995 the number of Irish players who have left Notre Dame for the NFL after three years in school. The others are running back Darius Walker after the 2006 season, quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate after the 2009 season and tight end Kyle Rudolph after the 2010 season.

Niklas' decision was first reported by SI.com.

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