Notre Dame has decided to make defense the focal point of recruiting for the 2008 recruiting class, and there is a wealth of talent at the linebacker position. New Jersey native Eric LeGrand (6-foot-2.5, 245 pounds) is a player the Irish have taken serious interest in.
"I was in my health class one day [last fall] and all of a sudden I got a call from the principal," LeGrand recalled of the day Notre Dame visited his high school for the first time. "I thought that I was in trouble, but then he said that Notre Dame was here to see me… I was like "Whoa!' A couple weeks later coach Latina came to see me. Then about two months later Charlie Weis came in to see me.
"Coach Weis said he stopped in to tell me that they were really interested in me. He said that I was a good-looking prospect and that I was possibly the No.1 prospect coming out of New Jersey this year."
LeGrand could play several positions. He made150 tackles last season as a middle linebacker. At fullback he rumbled for more than 800 yards in just 141 attempts.
"Notre Dame doesn't know where they are recruiting me to play," Eric said. "They don't know if they'll stick me in as a fullback, running back or linebacker. Virginia told me if go there I could pick where I wanted to play. Rutgers wants me as linebacker like almost everyone else and UConn actually said that they want me to play tight end.
"I like defense better, because I like to play linebacker. I like hitting people. I read the play good and I just love running around the field and making tackles. It's more exciting on defense when you make a big play. I just love how defense is played."
LeGrand has early scholarship offers from Rutgers, Virginia, and Maryland. North Carolina, Florida, UConn, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and Boston College are also showing interest in him.
LeGrand has visited several schools, and last weekend he made the trip to South Bend with two of his coaches and a couple friends.
"I just wanted to see the campus," Eric said of his junior day experience. "The academics stood out to me and getting a chance to play for the Fighting Irish. I liked the tradition of Notre Dame, the national championships and all the people that have walked through the hallways there. I grew up liking Miami, but I just became a Notre Dame fan.
"Notre Dame's graduation rate is tremendous. My uncle was telling me that this was a great opportunity. If don't make it to the NFL and I'm out trying to get a job, having a Notre Dame degree means a lot.
"Also just getting away from home and not staying local [is an opportunity] to be my own man and make me learn how to take care of myself," LeGrand said. "My mom wants me to stay local because she wants to see me play. She didn't come up with me, but if she would have heard what they were talking about, she would have been encouraged by that and she would have wanted me to go there."
LeGrand made the trip to Notre Dame in hopes that he would receive a scholarship offer. Notre Dame did not offer him a scholarship, but that did not dampen the day.
"I thought I might get a scholarship offer, but I didn't," Eric explained. "That didn't discourage me at all though. They talked about coming back to my high school in April. Charlie Weis said he'd come back up, so I'm looking forward to April and the beginning of May.
"I'm going to the Elite College combine at the Meadowlands. They said that they're going to be there as well. I'm just looking forward to doing my best there. Hopefully I'll get an offer from them around that time, because I really like Notre Dame. I talked to coach Latina about that and he told me to keep in touch with them about once or twice a week."