"They'll pull it back together."

There are plenty of Notre Dame fans that are concerned that the struggles on the football field will make a negative impact on Notre Dame's existing 19 commitments. It's difficult for Ethan Johnson to watch his future teammates struggle, but the standout defensive lineman from Lincoln High School (Portland, Ore.) isn't wavering on his commitment.

The Irish lost several recruits just prior to signing day last year. That was after a BCS season, so the chance of losing a recruit is always possible. Most Irish fans will be concerned about this class until the ink is dry in February, but defensive end Ethan Johnson (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) isn't a prospect Irish fans need to be concerned about.

"I've seen them play. I didn't see them play Georgia Tech, but I saw the Penn State game and then some of the Michigan State game," Johnson responded when asked if he had been watching the Irish this season. "I have faith that they'll pull it back together. If they do go 0-10, I'm still going there. I don't think it will happen… they'll pull it back together."

It's difficult for many to understand Ethan's allegiance to the Irish at this time, but his interest in Notre Dame goes beyond the football field.

"I talk to the Notre Dame coaches every week," Johnson explained. "I talk to coach Oliver and coach Weis and I'll talk to Corwin Brown every once in a while. We basically talk about how my life is going; how school is going, how my family is, how my coach is and other good stuff like that.

"Coach Weis talked to my dad for the first time this past week. When my dad got done talking to coach Weis, I know he was really happy. He could tell that coach Weis was a really good guy. You don't become the head coach at Notre Dame by being a bad guy. I think my parents are completely comfortable with Notre Dame and they feel that I made the right decision."

Still, as the Irish continue to struggle on the field, coaches from other top programs will continue to test Johnson's commitment.

"Coaches have been calling my house, but I know where I'm going to go, so I don't need to talk to other coaches," Johnson explained. "I don't care to talk to these other coaches. I committed to Notre Dame because I wanted to go to school there. I wouldn't have committed if I wasn't going to go.

"We have the best recruiting class in the nation right now, but let's say that a couple guys did de-commit and decide that they wanted to go to another school. I'd still want to go to Notre Dame. If we had a bad class, I'd still want to go there. I like the school and I want to play big-time football. That's the only school that I see that can give me everything I want."

Ethan made his commitment on his visit to Notre Dame this summer. His next visit to South Bend will be for his official visit the weekend of the Boston College game. By the time he heads to Notre Dame, Johnson hopes to be back on the field for Lincoln.

"I'm a little dinged up right now," Ethan said. "It isn't anything serious. I just need to take it easy and make sure I get some rest. I'm basically week-to-week right now."

Getting Johnson back will help Lincoln's push to the play-offs, and then he'll concentrate on his conditioning. In the past, Johnson went from the football field to the basketball court. This year, Johnson is going to jump from the football field into the swimming pool.

"I'm thinking about joining the swim team, because swimming is the best thing you can do for conditioning," Johnson explained. "I'm going to start swimming every day because that's what I'll have to do. The swim team starts November 5, so I might have to miss about a month of their season because of football."

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories