Expectations Met

Defensive end Justin Utupo hadn't seen Notre Dame during his recruitment, but that didn't prevent him from committing to the Irish in July. Last weekend the senior from Lakewood High School (Calif.) traveled to South Bend for the Nevada game, and Notre Dame was everything he expected and more.

Justin Utupo (6-foot-3, 260-pounds) had high expectations for Notre Dame and he wasn't disappointed during his official visit last weekend. In fact, Justin discovered he already had a connection on campus.

"I had a really good time… I really enjoyed it," Utupo replied when asked about his official visit. "The game was awesome, the campus… it was everything I expected and more. I didn't really get a chance to go out into the whole area, but what I was able to see, I'm satisfied with it. I'm happy with it and I'll be able to live there for four year. I'm excited about it and I want to go now. I can't wait until next June.

"Tyler Stockton was my host. I hung out with him and he showed me around. I got to meet Manti (Te'o) and got to meet his family. I just so happens that his dad knows my dad. That was crazy. My dad went to school with Manti's dad's cousin, and my dad is really close to Manti's dad's cousin. Manti is a great player and a great person. We already get along, but I know it's going to be great spending time with him for three years."

Utupo spent a lot of time with Te'o and Stockton, but it was the entire Notre Dame family that convinced him that he had made the right college choice.

"Coach Weis made me feel great about my decision to go to Notre Dame," Justin explained. All the coaches are great. Coach Hart is great. He's a really funny man. He has a lot of energy. He keeps me entertained and I know I'm going to love being coached by him. I liked them all.

"I met a lot of players and they all made me feel at home and I really felt like I fit in there. I can't wait; I just can't wait to go to Notre Dame."

Notre Dame's 35-0 win over Nevada helped make the weekend a success, but Justin discovered that even a convincing win against the Wolf Pack would be scrutinized by his future head coach.

"They looked solid out there," Utupo said. "The offense was very balanced and the defense got a shutout. It was funny though, because when I was talking to coach Weis he said that the defense didn't play very well. I was kind of confused because they got a shutout."

Unfortunately Justin's senior season didn't begin as successfully as Notre Dame's, as Lakewood dropped a close game to Crenshaw.

"We actually lost by a point, so I was very disappointed," Utupo said." I played all right. I know I could have played better. I did score my first touchdown though. I played tight end. I'm playing both ways this year. It was a goal line situation and I just ran a short streak and my quarterback found me in the end zone for a touchdown.


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