Notre Dame closed its recruiting class on Wednesday with a flourish, adding three prospects on National Signing Day to finish with 21 prospects ticketed for next season’s roster.
National Signing Day was the exclamation point on a long process that began for many of the Irish signees shortly after they played in their first high school football games as freshmen and sophomores.
That attention, coupled with signing for one of the nation’s top programs, highlighted the recruiting process for many of the Irish signees.
“The best part has been that I have been spotted out and I became important,” said Darnell Ewell, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive lineman from Norfolk, Va. “I really liked the feeling of being important to all these people, people knowing my name and me and my character. Who wouldn’t like that?”
David Adams, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker, also appreciated the attention but it was the scholarship offers that highlighted his recruitment.
“The best part of the recruiting process was getting offers,” Adams said. “Getting offers is the part of the process that makes all your hard work pay off.”
All the scholarship offers and attention from college coaches came with a price.
“The constant, non-stop random numbers calling me about such and such and there’s so much going on, so many people calling me just trying to get an interview,” Ewell said. “It gets annoying. We all need a break sometimes.”
Every Irish signee that responded to our questionnaire indicated they were happy to have that part of the process behind them.
It wasn’t just the media either.
“The weird text messages and DMs from coaches in the middle of the night telling me they are thinking about me and want me, that just freaked me out,” said Josh Lugg, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound offensive tackle from Wexford, Pa.
The tradeoff for Lugg was getting the chance to visit several different schools before ultimately choosing to continue his education and playing career at Notre Dame.
“Visiting all these different schools, every single one has something different about it that makes you love it,” Lugg said. “I loved seeing the different traditions and cultures that theses colleges had.”
Of course, Notre Dame’s signees all felt their best visit happened in South Bend.
“It was Notre Dame because I committed there,” Ewell said.
Kurt Hinish, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound defensive tackle, didn’t need to see another school after a stop in South Bend.
“Notre Dame was the best because it was the only one I took,” he said of his limited official visit schedule.
For some other recruits, those visits only made things more difficult.
Ewell visited several other schools before committing to Notre Dame.
“I really enjoyed Ohio State because two of my former teammates were there,” Ewell said. “I got a good look at everything because I was up there twice. It felt like home.”
He also was very high on Virginia Tech but in the end, the opportunities Notre Dame presented on the field and off of it were too good to pass up.
Ewell wasn’t the only Irish prospect to struggle with his decision.
Hinish and Adams were both high on Penn State. Lugg grew up following the Pittsburgh Panthers.
“The favorite school I didn’t pick was Penn State,” Adams said. “I really liked Penn State and all of the coaches.”
Notre Dame’s 4-8 season hurt Irish recruiting efforts. Several committed prospects backed off their pledges and signed with other schools.
The ones who stuck with the Irish did so out of loyalty to the Irish and a desire to be a part of rebuilding the program.
“Every single one of us is going to play an intricate part in making Notre Dame a Top 4 team again every year,” Lugg said.
Ewell hopes to be a part of that restoration project, but he knows his opportunities start with hard work.
“I just hope I get the chance to step out on the field,” Ewell said. “I’m not asking for a whole lot. I’m going to put in the best of my ability that I can do. I’m not saying I expect to play next year, but that’s my goal.”
- The Irish signees were asked who was the best recruiter on the Notre Dame staff. The responses were mixed with Mike Elston receiving a handful of votes. Even Coordinator of Recruiting Operations Aaron Kearney drew praise. “He hounded me down every day getting my stuff together,” Ewell said. “If I needed anything, he was there. I would call him or text him, he’s got it in a matter of seconds. I don’t know how he does it. It’s crazy.”
- Brian Kelly received the most votes for the staff member recruits most enjoyed spending time with while on campus. “He’s more than just a football coach, he’s a good guy,” Adams said. “He's actually really easy to talk to despite the rumors that players can't even talk to him,” Lugg added. “Those aren't true at all.”
- Apparently, Elston is the pool shark on the Irish staff and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand doesn’t even have to recruit. “Every offensive lineman in the nation wants to be coached by him,” Lugg said.
- The players were asked who among them is the most likely to end up in the NFL. While a few prospects named themselves, tight end Brock Wright won the vote.