When Notre Dame placekicker Carl Gioia played in the Sugar Bowl against Louisiana State Jan. 3, he knew it would be the last time he'd wear an Irish uniform.
"I don't have any regrets," Gioia said. "Playing football at Notre Dame was an unbelievable opportunity. I'm so happy I was able to do it."
The former Valparaiso High School star was eligible to return for a fifth year. But he said after talking with his parents and Irish head coach Charlie Weis, he decided not to continue his career.
Gioia, who will graduate on May 20, with a bachelor's degree in pre-professional studies and history, plans to begin dental school in the fall at either Louisville, Marquette or Indiana (where he's already been accepted). He's waiting on financial aid packages before making his selection.
"I went to Coach Weis and told him what I thought," Gioia said. "Coach told me I could make a great living as a dentist. He was very understanding and supportive of what I wanted to do."
Gioia said his decision had nothing to do with his effectiveness as a placekicker during the 2006 season. He made 8 of 13 field goal attempts -- but only 1 of 4 from 40-49 yards -- and converted 49 of 54 extra points.
Gioia finished last season as the team's third-leading scorer with 73 points, just behind Rhema McKnight (90) and former Valpo teammate, Jeff Samardzija (78).
"I never thought about not coming back next year because of anything that had to do with my kicking," Gioia said. "It had nothing to do with football. It was my decision and it was a decision that worked best for me."
Gioia said Weis asked him if he would be returning next season before he informed him of his intentions not to return.
"I've never had an injury and in the last two years, I've had two major ones," Gioia said. "My body's starting to break down. It was giving me signs I can't ignore."
Gioia said he had surgery on his left knee in 2005 and missed the entire spring and also tore his right groin muscle just before the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.