The lure of Notre Dame can be so enticing that even the most ardent efforts to resist can’t be overcome. Manti Te’o knows about that feeling. And today, perhaps as many as 25 of the most talented prep football players in the country will submit to that draw and sign national letters of intent to play for the Fighting Irish.
“I think our sales pitch is done on the field,” Te’o said last month on what he tells recruits. “I think when you get to Notre Dame, for those who have been at Notre Dame, it speaks for itself.”
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly will announce his 2013 recruiting class at noon at the Guglielmino Athletic Complex.
Te’o finished a storied career in South Bend last month and if there was ever a poster child for a square peg in a round hole, it would be Te’o electing to spend four years at Notre Dame.
Te’o is a Mormon, who signed with the most renowned Catholic institution in America.
Te’o grew up surfing and wearing flip-flops daily in Hawaii. The term “lake-effect” snow never entered his mind.
He is devoted to his family, yet he chose to attend a college 4,300 miles from home.
“I spent four years there,” Te’o explained, “and I just tell people my experience, and all these guys who come to Notre Dame aren’t because of me. They see the success that we’ve had on the football field.”
Certainly the Fighting Irish finishing the 2012 season 12-1 and being ranked No. 4 in the country after losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game will have a dramatic effect on how Notre Dame fares today in securing talent. But Te’o said that the decision to play for the Irish goes far deeper than simply wins and losses.
“You combine (the success on the field) with the success we have in the classroom, and the tradition, and just the whole aura of the school,” Te’o said. “Walk through the locker room. Movies are made about that locker room, and movies are made about that stadium.”
One of the most coveted recruits expected to sign today is Bishop Luers High School senior linebacker Jaylon Smith. He echoed (no pun intended) Te’o’s thoughts on just how special the university can be, despite the cold weather, high academic standards and the university’s insistence that the football players live in most regards, just as any other Notre Dame student does.
“It's making a 40-year decision,” Smith said recently. “Everything that I've dreamed of, Notre Dame can provide that for me.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has spoken in the past about being brutally honest with recruits from the initial contact on what will be expected of them once they sign with the program. Te’o feels that the university – though great in his mind – isn’t for all. And that is fine with him.
“Two things can happen when you go to Notre Dame,” Te’o said. “Either you fall in love with it or you don’t. There is no in between.”
The next great group
Notre Dame is projected as having secured the third-best recruiting class this winter trailing Florida and Alabama, as rated by ESPN.com.
The Fighting Irish class of 23 players (as of Tuesday evening) includes the seventh-rated player in the country, Bishop Luers' standout Jaylon Smith.
The Irish lost out on Kylie Fitts, a defensive end from California, who announced late Tuesday that he was going to sign with UCLA over Notre Dame, USC among others.
Here is the expected class:
Steve Elmer - OL Midland, MI 6'6" 305
Mike Heuerman - TE Naples, FL 6'4" 220
James Onwualu - ATH St. Paul, MN 6'1" 205
Corey Robinson - WR San Antonio, TX 6'4" 195
Malik Zaire - QB Kettering, OH 6'0" 196
Committed - Not Yet Signed
Hunter Bivin - OL Owensboro, KY 6'7" 288
Greg Bryant - RB Delray Beach, FL 5'11" 197
Devin Butler - DB Washington, D.C. 6'1" 179
Michael Deeb - LB Plantation, FL 6'2" 237
Tarean Folston - RB Cocoa, FL 5'10" 195
William Fuller - WR Philadelphia, PA 6'1" 168
Torii Hunter Jr. - WR Prosper, TX 6'0" 172
Rashad Kinlaw - ATH Galloway, NJ 6'2" 184
Cole Luke - DB Chandler, AZ 6'0" 165
Jacob Matuska - TE Columbus, OH 6'5" 240
Mike McGlinchey - OL Philadelphia, PA 6'9" 280
Colin McGovern - OL New Lenox, IL 6'5" 284
John Montelus - OL Everett, MA 6'5" 295
Doug Randolph - LB Richmond, VA 6'3" 237
Max Redfield - DB Mission Viejo, CA 6'2" 195
Isaac Rochell - DE McDonough, GA 6'5" 260
Jaylon Smith - LB Fort Wayne 6'3" 212
Durham Smythe - TE Belton, TX 6'6" 230