SOUTH BEND – If you need to know the best places to grab a bite to eat long U.S. 30, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly or one of his assistants.
The Fighting Irish coaching staff has made a habit of visiting Fort Wayne over the past few years and it has certainly paid dividends during the 2012 season and should in the future as well.
“Those guys (in Fort Wayne) come out ready to compete early on in their careers,” Irish tight end and special teams coordinator Scott Booker said. “They are also well coached. There is great coaching in that area.”
Notre Dame will feature three players from Bishop Dwenger High School in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama on Jan. 7 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.), but Notre Dame fans can catch a glimpse of the future prior to that day.
The Irish will have seven athletes from the 2013 class who have verbally committed to play in South Bend, including Bishop Luers High School standout Jaylon Smith, participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio Jan. 5 (NBC, 1 p.m.). Those players will report to the bowl site on Sunday.
Smith will follow in the footsteps of Irish seniors John Goodman (wide receiver) and Tyler Eifert (tight end), as well as sophomore defensive lineman Tony Springmann. And according to Booker, it is no surprise that those players ultimately selected the Fighting Irish program.
“They understand Notre Dame and the type of competition that we play week in and week out,” Booker said. “Our (current) students have had some success, so guys that are younger see those guys.”
Kelly talked earlier this season of his recruiting pitch to players such as Smith and Springmann, whom he personally recruited – and it is quite blunt.
“We clearly talk about our distinctions and why you would come to Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “So those guys that are not attracted to Notre Dame, we've already laid out to them what they're going to get when they come here and why they should consider Notre Dame. People say, ‘Why would you do that?’ Well, we would be recruiting them under false pretenses, because they wouldn't fit in the program.”
There are a lot of positives to playing for the Irish, obviously. For example, under Kelly’s leadership, you’ll have a legitimate opportunity to play for championships.
But aside from national championships and Heisman ceremonies, there is a national audience, an international (at times) schedule, and tremendous facilities.
There are also some challenges that certain recruits aren’t interested in.
Notre Dame is an elite academic institution. Earning a degree at the school – and you will earn the degree – isn’t easy. There is also the requirement that football players reside in the dorms through their junior season. Like every other student. With every other student.
“If they came here and didn't care about their academics,” Kelly explained, “(and) didn't care about being in the dorms and being at Notre Dame, and thought just about going into the NFL, they wouldn't fit in very well.”
When Smith made his announcement this past summer in selecting Notre Dame, he spoke mostly of the academic prestige of the university, not of his potential to develop into an NFL player. He was impressed by the rate that African-American student-athletes graduate from Notre Dame, in comparison to a lot of the major college football programs.
“It wasn’t even close,” Smith said at the time when he compared graduation rates and his varying offers.
Kelly’s philosophy, which is based on efficiency and honesty, is obviously paying off.
“We go through that (detailed information) in the recruiting process,” Kelly said. “So if John Smith is not interested in Notre Dame, we can move on because we've clearly told them and we're transparent about what our philosophy is in the recruiting process.”
Notre Dame has seven verbally-committed recruits that will be participating in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 5 in San Antonio.
Jaylon Smith - LB Bishop Luers High School
Greg Byrant - RB American Heritage High School (Delray Beach, Fla.)
Steve Elmer - OL Midland High School (Midland, Mich.)
Tori Hunter Jr. - WR Prosper High School (Prosper, Texas)
John Montelus - OL Everett High School (Everett, Mass.)
Doug Randolph - LB Woodberry Forest High School (Richmond, Va.)
Corey Robinson - WR San Antonio Christian High School (San Antonio)