When Scout 300 linebacker Pete Werner called Irish linebackers coach Mike Elston on Monday evening, his intention was to schedule a return visit to Notre Dame.
He didn’t expect that less than an hour later, his recruitment would be over.
“Last night I talked to coach Elston on the phone, and I tried to schedule a visit back up there this weekend to spend the night with a player to get even a better feel for it,” Werner said. “I was supposed to visit Ohio State but had already called their coaches and told them I’m doing what my heart is telling me to do, and I want to go back to Notre Dame.
“I called coach Elston, and he basically said, ‘we’re taking one more linebacker and you’re the one we want and you’re the one we need.’
“I talked to my parents, and 30 minutes later called him back and committed.”
The 6-foot-2 ½, 215-pound prospect from Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral ultimately chose Notre Dame over Michigan, but Penn State and Wisconsin were also under consideration.
Werner took back-to-back visits to Michigan and Notre Dame last weekend, his first look at both programs. The side-by-side comparison played into Notre Dame’s favor.
“They’re both great schools, and I thanked Michigan a lot,” Werner said. “I liked the smaller feeling in a college – 8,000 compared to 35,000. Not saying that Michigan coaches were bad, but I just felt a better connection with Notre Dame. I talked to coach Elston and coach (Brian) Kelly a lot. I felt like their interest in me was stronger. I knew Michigan had a linebacker that was going to commit there. I knew Notre Dame had a spot waiting, and I couldn’t pass it up.
“After coming home and comparing it to other schools it just felt right. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It felt perfect.”
Werner spent his first two years of high school attending Mt. Vernon in Fortville, Indiana, located 15 miles northeast of Indianapolis. His parents also attended Mt. Vernon before graduating from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.
“Growing up in Indiana, (Notre Dame) is the school everyone grows up worshipping,” Werner said. “I did not. But as I continued to grow and learn about the school and how great the academics are, it changed my thoughts.”
Werner’s brother, Dan Werner, is a freshman tight end at Harvard. Werner confided in his older sibling throughout the recruiting process.
“I was talking to him for a while about things, and he was like, ‘I’m not a scout here, just talk to me like a brother,’” said Werner laughing, “It was pretty cool, especially with a guy that plays in college and you look up to.”
Werner, who plays safety, cornerback and linebacker for Cathedral, projects as a Sam linebacker at Notre Dame. He holds an official time in the 40-yard dash of 4.59 seconds and runs the 400-meter as a member of Cathedral’s track team.
“Notre Dame liked how I played different positions,” Werner said. “They liked how I moved for my size. They say it’s hard running 4.6’s, 4.5’s when you’re a 215-pound linebacker, so they like my speed. They talked to my coach and saw that I was hardworking and a guy that really wanted to excel.”
Werner was Notre Dame’s third linebacker commitment of the week and fifth overall to emerge from Saturday’s Junior Day list of visitors.
The linebacker commitments that came hours before his didn’t play a role in the timing of his decision.
“No, because they play different positions,” Werner said. “They see me as a Sam, another guy at the Will and another one at Mike. So it works out perfectly.”
Werner spoke emphatically to his affinity for Notre Dame when asked about other programs’ possible pursuit.
“I’d like to say Notre Dame is my home,” Werner said. “I like it a lot.”