Three-star linebacker Sampson Niu wasn’t sure how to comprehend the news. But when Notre Dame recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Elston got in touch on Tuesday morning, the San Diego (Calif.) Madison product had something big to process.
“It’s obviously really crazy,” Niu said. “It’s just really exciting. I talked to coach Sanford and then he put me on the phone with coach Elston. He told me he liked my film and that it took a while to evaluate to my film but that they wanted to offer me a full scholarship offer.
“I froze for a minute on the phone. I asked him, ‘are you sure about that? I didn’t know if he was joking.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker is familiar with what Notre Dame brings to the table.
“It’s mostly the tradition about Notre Dame,” Niu said. “I really like what their culture stands for. I like Brian Kelly a lot, I have grown up watching him since I was a kid. There’s so much history and tradition, it’s kind of like SC.”
Colorado State and Yale offered Niu in early February. Nevada, San Jose State, Utah, Hawaii, Arizona and UCF soon followed. This past week, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Washington and California joined the mix.
“I don’t have any favorites,” Niu said. “I’m taking the offers that are coming in one-by-one and evaluating them as they come.”
As Niu sifts through the recruiting process and likely continues to gain steam on the trail, he’ll place an emphasis on academics and coaching staff in what he looks for in a future school.
“Other than academics, I want to play for a coach that has the same passion for the game as me and really likes football,” Niu said. “And I want a coach that really wants to win because I’m very competitive and love to win.”
Niu grew up a fan of the Trojans, but that won’t stop him from considering schools outside of California. He’s already visited Auburn, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
“I grew up USC for life,” Niu said. “I’ve always really liked them and Junior Seau is my favorite player. But these new offers have opened my eyes to a lot of schools.
“My freshman and sophomore year I was a mama’s boy and didn’t think that I could branch out. I thought I would be fine at San Diego State. Then USC, UCLA and Washington started showing some interest and then SEC schools did, and now all these offers started coming in. It’s crazy.”
According to Niu, Notre Dame is recruiting him to play middle linebacker.
“I’m not one to buy into my own hype because I think I can work on a lot of things,” Niu said. “But I guess my film speaks for itself. I go into a zone when I’m playing. I play side-to-side, and I’m really aggressive.”