Mike Elko built strong relationships with many top North Carolina prospects during his time as defensive coordinator at Wake Forest.
One of those recruits was 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety Jeremiah Gray. After remaining in contact with the playmaking safety from Charlotte, N.C., since taking office in South Bend, Elko convinced Gray and his father Derwin, a former NFL safety, to visit Notre Dame.
They were more than pleased with their first visit to South Bend.
“It was a great visit, great campus, really great day,” Gray said. “Me and my dad, we were very surprised at how beautiful the campus was, actually. We weren’t expecting it to be as nice as it was. I was very impressed with how the campus was laid out, how much space there is. I’m the type of guy that likes a lot of space.”
Gray spent time with Notre Dame cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght. The two talked off the field topics.
“We had a great talk,” Gray said. “We went over a lot of stuff outside of football at first. We talked about what a degree from Notre Dame would mean, all the networking and all that stuff. That was really good. That presentation blew me away.”
Gray expects to play safety, corner and outside linebacker at Charlotte Christian this fall. That’s the same prep program that produced former Irish safety and captain Matthias Farley.
Lyght discussed which positions Notre Dame feels Gray could fit in the Irish defense.
“He started talking about boundary corner, boundary safety and what all that means and what they look for as far as body-wise for those types of positions,” Gray said. “In Mike Elko’s defense, they’d like me at boundary corner or field safety. Usually, boundary corner is a bigger, physical guy that can press up and hang with the taller receivers.”
Gray’s father, who played defensive back at BYU before moving on to a six-year career in the NFL, hit it off with Elko.
“He was very impressed,” Gray said. “He talked to coach Elko almost the entire visit. I was very impressed, he was very impressed, it was a very successful visit.
“Coach Elko, he was talking with my dad and he was asking ‘what does Jeremiah prefer to play. My dad, over the years, has trained me to play both and I’ll be able to play both wherever I go. It’s really going to depend on the coaching preferences and the type of defense they run. Penn State also wants me at boundary corner. I feel like Notre Dame, if I went there, I feel like I could play both in Elko’s defense.”
Gray holds offers from BYU, East Carolina, Penn State, Purdue, South Carolina and Wake Forest.
Following his visit to Notre Dame, an offer from the Irish would likely put them near the top of his list.
“I think that would have a huge impact,” Gray said. “I think with an offer like that, I mean, shoot, there’s not a lot of offers out there that have that atmosphere. Not just from a guy like coach Elko but also from a prestigious school like Notre Dame.”