I guess when most people look at a player on the field it is difficult for them to understand the experiences that have molded the player's path in life. Frankly most fans probably don't even care as long as the wins accumulate. Jimmy Clausen, of Oaks Christian School (Westlake Village, Calif.), is a special player that is in a unique situation.
"You're dealing with a very sophisticated, mature kid," Jim Clausen said of his son. "He's a guy that has seen two brothers go through the recruiting process. You're dealing with a guy that watched his two older brothers go through six years of interviews at high profile programs, and he understands what this whole thing is all about. The program is more important than one guy.
"Jimmy understands that his competition is going out and getting better every day, so he needs to get better. His approach is so different. His work ethic is phenomenal. (If he selected Notre Dame) He doesn't just want to be the quarterback at Notre Dame; he wants to be the best quarterback to ever play at Notre Dame. He doesn't want to be a first round draft choice. He wants to be the first guy picked overall in that draft.
"Right now, Jimmy wants to be the best high school quarterback in the nation. He wants his team to go undefeated and win championships. He wants to take care of his teammates. He doesn't get to this point without an awful lot of people around him doing a great job, so he wants to take care of those guys. When he talks to the press he talks about his teammates and what they bring to the table.
"He's a great kid. The coach that gets him, he's going to love coaching him. His greatest asset is his smile."
There certainly are a lot of coaches across the country that would like to get the shot to coach Jimmy Clausen, but he and his family have already done a lot of the recruiting groundwork.
"We had been to the Florida schools," Jim Clausen said of the early recruiting trips he took his son on. "We have been to South Carolina to see coach Spurrier, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Michigan. We've been to a number of places on the West Coast that we thought Jimmy should at least take a look at."
"We've been proactive," Mr. Clausen said of the recruiting process. "I sent a tape to David Cutcliffe when he was at Notre Dame. David took the tape immediately to Charlie. Charlie said he liked Jimmy. That tape was really from when he was going into his junior year. There was an immediate positive response from Notre Dame. They said they were interested and I said great. Jimmy could see that there was a great opportunity for the right guy."
That opportunity will be an intense competition for the quarterback position when Brady Quinn leaves for the NFL after the 2006 season. If Clausen were to select Notre Dame, he would likely have to compete with then junior David Wolke, sophomore Evan Sharpley, and freshmen Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer.
"There are a lot of guys out there, and they (Notre Dame) brought in two guys this year that are really good," Mr. Clausen said of his competition at Notre Dame. "There is going to be competition no matter where you go. Any school that Jimmy is interested in attending, there is always going to be great athletes at the quarterback position. If you're afraid of competition, Notre Dame is not the right place for you.
"That's true whether he goes to USC or South Carolina, Miami or Cal or any place else. We want Jimmy coached. We think this kid has just scratched the surface of his abilities. He's a bright kid that wants to learn and be coached. Jimmy wanted to go undefeated and go 13-0. He played his best game in the championship game and so did Marc Tyler. Big-time guys show up in big-time games."
Mr. Clausen also admitted that playing for Weis is very attractive to Jimmy at this point.
"When Charlie got the job, what kid wouldn't want to play for Charlie Weis with his contacts in the NFL, what he's done with Tom Brady and different things like that," he said. "When Charlie Weis comes out to Jimmy's school at 8 o'clock the first day he can physically go to schools, that's an impressive thing. That meant a lot to Jimmy. They have a good relationship. They talk all the time. It's a relationship built on being straightforward. He's a man of integrity, he's straightforward, and you know very early in the recruiting process what you're getting. He isn't going to tell you something that he doesn't honestly believe. I think Charlie's approach is what we're looking for because we don't need to be recruited.
"We just want to make sure we know where this thing is going and I think we do. He has some great choices between some great schools. Notre Dame is one of them."
Being in the game is half the battle, but Jimmy Clausen's recruitment is far from over. Clausen has his pick of schools and the competition for his signature will be intense.
"We've told a number of coaches from around the country that it's probably not the fit we're looking for," Jim Clausen said of the decision to narrow the list of schools to a manageable list. "We probably have it narrowed down to five or six schools. I think Notre Dame has everything that we're looking for as parents. I think Notre Dame has everything that Jimmy is looking for from big-time football, to a tradition, to a man (Charlie Weis) that is going to take this program to great heights.
"It's great opportunity. No one is going to promise us anything. All we want is an opportunity for Jimmy to be coached up and get an opportunity to compete. If he's the best guy, he's going to play. If he's not the best then Jimmy needs to get better.
"We're looking for the best fit for Jimmy Clausen," he continued. "We're looking for Jimmy to get an opportunity for a quality education. We're looking for good people, quality personalities and we want him to get coached up."
If the early indications are true, Jimmy Clausen will be the top quarterback in the 2007 recruiting class because he has the mental and physical tools to make him a very unique athlete.
"The ball comes out and it's right where it has to be," Mr. Clausen said of his son's ability. "Clay Matthews played for 19 years with the Cleveland Browns. He came up to me a said ‘I've never seen a kid that has the ability to put the ball where receivers don't have to stop running. He puts the ball where it has to be.'
"When Pete Carroll came out with his staff, Pete Carroll was amazed at the accuracy and the velocity of the ball. When people see him throw for the first time they ask if he's always like this. The ball whistles when it's in the air.
"He's a tremendous competitor on the field. We've won 31 straight games and Jimmy has quarterbacked 27 of those games. As a freshman he was instrumental in taking the team through the playoffs. They were 12-2 that year and the only games they lost were games he didn't play in. When he did get a chance, he was the guy. He's a guy that understands pressure."
Notre Dame hasn't enjoyed the success that their primary rival USC has over the last several years. Many talking heads have said that the Irish can't compete because they don't have the talent that other top programs have.
"I think that was one of the main concerns Jimmy had, ‘Can we get athletes into Notre Dame that we can win national championships with'," Clausen said of the questions surrounding the athletic talent in the Irish program. "Charlie Weis said yes.
"They do have to meet certain academic standards and we totally understand that. I think what Charlie Weis and his coaching staff were able to do against USC has kind of put all that stuff to rest. I think you're dealing with a unique coaching staff that has taken the whole program to another level in establishing and redefining an approach, an attitude a commitment and a desire to be the best that they can be."
"At the end of the day Notre Dame battled the No.1 team in the nation and probably should have won that game," Jim Clausen said of Notre Dame's loss to USC. "What we see is a great opportunity. What we see is an opportunity to take this thing to the next level.
"Marc Tyler, who has also been offered by Notre Dame, and he is the best running back on the West Coast, he is a man amongst boys. Marc's been back with us to Notre Dame three different times, that is something that Marc is looking to. Marc has to make the best decision for Marc and Jimmy is going to make the best decision for Jimmy.
"It's a long process and we're thrilled that Notre Dame has taken the interest in Jimmy that they have. It's a tremendous honor to our family to be recruited by all the schools, but being a Catholic family and being back there before, it's just a special place. Like I said before, maybe a special place works for a special kid – we'll see.
"We just want our kids to be good people. When someone comes up to me and says ‘You have a great kid.' That is as important to me as anything else.