BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. - Returning to Notre Dame for a second visit in about a month offered Phil Paea a little more depth.
The three-star defensive tackle made the half-hour trip to South Bend in February for a quick look. Hours later, he scored a scholarship offer. Coming back to campus last weekend for Junior Day gave Paea an opportunity to take things in a little bit more.
Campus tours and academic presentations were supplemented by watching practice and meeting with head coach Brian Kelly for the first time.
“It was really good actually,” Paea said. “Got to watch them practice and talk to the coaches. I got to talk to coach Kelly. Pretty much talking to him, he overviewed everything about the day. What you see is what you get. I really liked it. You can definitely feel it there. Good family base, strong structure. It’s good.”
Meeting with Kelly offered Paea a different perspective on the program. Kelly also impressed the 6-foot-4, 270-pound prospect with his approach.
“He never really sold me with anything,” Paea said. “He didn’t try to push me. He was just like, what I see is what I get. He said he’s not gonna pressure me into anything. He’s just going to show me everything they have. He’s not going to tell me something that’s not real. They want it to be 100 percent real and that’s what I got there.”
But in terms of visit nuts and bolts, it was probably the academic side that caught Paea’s attention more than practice or the Kelly meeting.
Paea also talked about life at Notre Dame with some players.
“We met with the academic advisors and stuff like that,” he said. “They gave us some insight on that. I also got to talk to some of the players. He gave us some feedback on how he felt there. None of the coaches were there, so it was real.”
Adding a second Notre Dame trip is part of a busy spring for Paea, who’s planning several more visits.
Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona, BYU, Nebraska, USC, Arizona State, Minnesota and Oregon are among the scholarship offers already available. Paea will spend time with family in California over spring break starting April 4, so the plan is to visit USC in that timeframe.
Michigan State will get Paea back on campus for its spring game. Michigan will do so April 2. Paea plans to see Oregon in late April.
Mostly, it will be things off the field that Paea and his family will be considering on these upcoming trips. That’s an important factor.
“Definitely a backup plan education-wise,” Paea said. “Having something to fall back on if playing professionally doesn’t work out. Getting that degree. Not only the degree but where you get the degree from. Just a lot more is behind that.”