Everyone knows that recruiting is the life blood of a successful football program and throughout the process controversy seems to stir within every school. For Irish fans, recruiting controversies are fresh in their psyche with the decommittment of David Marrero last year to Stanford and losing out on Lorenzo Booker to Florida State at the last second. This year it seems to center around Anthony Vernaglia, the Orange Lutheran athlete who committed early in the process last year. More committed now then when he was during football season, Anthony has returned from the All American bowl and spoke frankly with Irish Eyes.
Being picked to play in the prestigious All-American Bowl, Anthony kept it simple in praise of his experience in Texas. "It was awesome," he said. "The players were great. The level of talent at the next level is just huge."
But what is on Notre Dame Fan's minds is not what happened during the game, but what happened outside of the game. An article in the Orange County Register ran a story insinuating that he was wavering on his commitment to Notre Dame, causing a stir on Notre Dame Football message boards from nerve racked recruitniks with the memory of David Marrero's defection last year fresh in their minds. Compounded with reports of him spending time in the USC locker room after the USC-UCLA game, the situation was coming to the boiling point, especially with Signing Day looming around the corner.
Having told Irish Eyes earlier that he was a solid commit after the initial maelstrom of controversy, Irish Eyes asked Anthony to comment on the latest rumors that is swirling around. "They kinda made it worse then what it was," he said. "I am committed to Notre Dame, Coach Willingham, and Coach Baer. A while back when I was committed, I was just making sure that I did the right thing, so I was looking around a little bit, but nothing serious. When he wrote that out, that made it out that I was decommitting, but at that point I told him that the only way that I wouldn't be going to Notre Dame was that something happened coaching wise like if Coach Willingham and Coach Baer. I'm going to Notre Dame."
Getting an early dose of life under the spotlight, Anthony wasn't too pleased at the trouble the articles insinuating his decommittment caused him and his family, yet it seems that his displeasure was directed at himself. "I was furious," he said. "It just didn't seem to me like I said any of that stuff."
With Anthony openly stating that he is a solid Notre Dame commitment, he is turning focusing on his future plans and Irish Eyes asked him what he was working at during the off-season. "Definitely work on my strength," he admitted. "I've been working in the weight room a lot. What I want to do is get stronger and maintain my speed, so I want to try to get in at about 225 lbs. and try to play safety. He (Coach Baer) said he'd give me a shot at it. I really want to play as a freshman. I'll do my best and try my hardest at the opportunity."
Training on his own isn't the only thing he intends to do in the off-season, Anthony will be making a trip to South Bend as well as other freshman recruits to train with future teammates. "Sometime in July; I'll be up for week," he said. "Then I'm gonna come home and then go out for camp in August."
Anthony isn't the only one that is excited about playing at Notre Dame. With his father a former wide receiver for Penn State, football is a family obsession and the Vernaglia clan plan to make them permanent fixtures during home games. "Everyone is excited," he said. "They (his parents) plan on getting a house out there, like a little condo or something to be able to come out for the weekend to see the home games."
Comments: Upon finishing this interview, Irish Eyes spoke with Mrs. Vernaglia and no, there will be no parties at the Vernaglia condo, while his parents are in California. "Anthony is not getting the keys. Who knows what those kids would do," she said.