SAN ANTONIO - Four-star receiver Javon McKinley waited to reveal his college destination.
By the time McKinley made it here for practices ahead of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, there was no more deliberation to be done. McKinley just needed the game and national broadcast to come. That’s when he’d reveal his choice.
It’s Notre Dame.
McKinley went Irish over finalists Oregon and Washington.
"I think they offer best for me the combination of early playing opportunity and one of the best hands down degrees in the nation," McKinley said.
Notre Dame landed McKinley, who’s from Corona, Calif., after multiple visits to campus despite its distance from home.
McKinley first visited last spring with his 7-on-7 team while in the area for a tournament. He returned in June for the Irish Invasion and again for an official visit in mid-October when the Notre Dame played USC, which also offered a scholarship earlier in the process.
Over time, McKinley grew more and more comfortable with things in South Bend. But most of the legwork got done on that first trip.
“The campus and facilities stood out to me on my first visit,” McKinley told Scout.com after the official visit, “so nothing they showed me really was different and they did really well showing me everything the first time I was there.”
Head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford followed up by visiting McKinley and his family at home after the regular season finale against Stanford, edging closer to a commitment that would unfold a couple months later.
McKinley is the 22nd pledge for Notre Dame in the Class of 2016. He joins Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson as the wide receiver commitments.
“Javon has size, strength and runs a lot better than given credit for,” said Greg Biggins, a Scout.com national analyst. “He’s a physical wide receiver and will routinely drag 2-3 defenders for extra yards after the catch. He has strong hands and isn't afraid to go over the middle and take a hit. He’ll fight the ball at times but that’s more of a case of losing focus than any concern about his hands. He’s a strong route runner and understands how to get open and when to settle on a route.”
Scout.com lists McKinley at No. 52 overall in its latest rankings and eighth at wide receiver.
Other offers on his list included Miami, Ohio State, Tennessee, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, Nebraska, Northwestern, Stanford, and Wisconsin.
Biggins sees a future playmaker at Notre Dame and drew comparisons between McKinley and current USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, a one-time Irish recruiting target.
“Once (McKinley) gets in to a college strength program,” Biggins added, “you can expect him to pack on some serious weight/strength as he has a similar frame to current USC wide receiver Juju Smith at the same stage in his development. He’ll need to work hard on his flexibility as he gains size to make sure he doesn’t lose any of his fluidity but he definitely has a lot of upside and should be an excellent college player.”