Notre Dame In Touch With Junior Cornerback

Boubacar Cissoko had never heard of Shane Walton, but immediately became interested in Notre Dame's 2002 consensus All-American and his transition from the soccer field into a full-time football player. That's because Cissoko's first love was the other football, before he started dedicating all his time to the gridiron the last three years.

Irish coaches will hope that the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Cissoko, a cornerback at Detroit Cass Tech, eventually becomes interested in Notre Dame itself. A native of the African country Guinea, Cissoko has become one of the nation's fastest rising juniors after impressing at the Nike Camp in Columbus back in May. He continued to impress through the recent high school season.

Cissoko had 52 tackles, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception, despite the ball never really coming his way. He said he was in man coverage on every play all season.

"I jam a lot," said Cissoko, who also returned two kicks for touchdowns. "I'm a physical guy."

"He is very good at jamming and opening and closing," Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. "He is very quick, very quick feet and strong. He bench presses 305 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.4 and runs the shuttle in about 4.1, 4.2."

Cissoko went to the Nike camp with Cass Tech teammate Joseph Barksdale, and put himself on the radar nationally. Going up against some of the best prep receivers in the country, Cissoko held his own. The colleges came a calling, and since then, Cissoko says he has received scholarship offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Tennessee, Iowa and Indiana.

"I always knew I was good, because when I get home I go outside and work on my footwork," he said. "I always knew I could be as good as I wanted to be, but at the camp, I was kind of nervous going against those guys. But after checking them, I got a lot of confidence in myself.

"I feel I can check anybody in the country."

Notre Dame has been sending Cissoko mail mostly every day, and he has talked to Irish assistant coach Mike Haywood a couple times.

"He says it's a good place for corners to come in and make an immediate impact," Cissoko said. "He says (Notre Dame) will make something of your life. That the family and the whole community are nice."

Just a few years ago, Cissoko never imagined football could take him so far.

While living in Guinea, Cissoko's love for sports was craved by soccer.

Cissoko's parents divorced and he stayed with his father, who was in the military and also held an office job. Home alone most of the time, Cissoko's sister, 13 years his senior, asked if her brother could come stay with her in the United States. So Cissoko made the move to the States in sixth grade, where he was introduced to football.

Cissoko moved in with his sister, brother-in-law, two nephews and a niece. He continued to play soccer but wondered about this physical game he was seeing on television.

"During gym time and at recess I started playing, messing around," Cissoko said. "Then I went to play Pop Warner and did that for two weeks, and stopped because it wasn't my thing. I kept watching it, and in high school started playing again and fell in love with the game."

Cissoko came out for the team, and his speed and athleticism was apparent on the freshman team.

"His enthusiasm was more appealing," Wilcher remembered. "Hard working and dedicated, and he loved the game."

Cissoko broke his ankle that year, but came back and made varsity as a sophomore.

"I have come a long way since dropping soccer," Cissoko said. "About the middle of (sophomore) season things started to come together. Playing against big guys and strong receivers went a long way into translating into this season. This season I had no problems at all, just got on the field and did my thing."

"This year he took over," said Wilcher, a former Michigan running back. "Understood the game more, was more responsive, ready to take on more responsibility. He took it on by being willing to step up and be the man."

When Cissoko isn't playing football, hitting the books to maintain his 3.0 grade point average, or training for track where he is a state-caliber sprinter (second in the state last year as a member of the 400-meter relay team), he said he is watching football or something football related to learn more. He has seen Notre Dame on television but has never been on campus.

"I plan to sometime, during my visits I should," he said.

Cissoko hasn't seen his mother in six years, but talks to her regularly on the phone. His father has been to the States to see his boy play. Football is obviously foreign to them.

"My Mom is kind of scared because she has never seen guys running around and hitting each other," Cissoko said. "She doesn't understand the game, but my Dad is getting the hang of it."

Cissoko said he will be at the combine before the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio, Dec. 4-Dec. 6.

"Just look out for me, I'll be making some noise."

As for schools, Michigan is Cissoko's favorite team, and the early leader.

"Anything can happen though," he said.


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