Malik Zaire soaks up his moment at this year’s Blue Gold Game.
We asked the newest member of G&BB, Fritz Hrdlicka, to write something he loves about Notre Dame as his “initiation.” This is what he came up with:
National Signing Day: the day college football enthusiasts like myself look forward to most. I wake up very early in the morning, and the first thing I do is open my computer to get the live updates on who has sent in their letter of intent. However, I believe I am different from most fans when I analyze my team’s recruiting class. Most people look to see how many 5-star and 4-star players their team signed, which is great and all, but stars only go so far. What I noticed this year in the Notre Dame recruiting class were two things: players of high character and players that had an intense passion and love for the university.
A large contingent of Notre Dame fans out there like to believe that our coaches only recruit kids of high character that do no wrong. Recently in several offseason incidents, we were reminded that these are college kids, and that not every kid we recruit is perfect. However, when looking at our most recent class, I am amazed by the maturity and understanding of life that several of these recruits have.
Michael Deeb, for example, “gets it.” This is a guy that is constantly in the weight room trying to make sure no one is outworking him. This is a guy that is constantly tweeting to his fellow recruits about working out, getting to Notre Dame, how excited he is about his future, and about how God and his family have played a huge role in making him the person he is today. I follow around 350 people on twitter and this kid is hands down my favorite to follow.
When I think back to my childhood about classy athletes – guys of character – David Robinson is one of the first guys that comes to mind. Luckily for us, his son Corey committed to Notre Dame. At the time, there wasn’t a huge recruitment for Corey, but the Irish coaching staff knew what they were doing when they offered him. He is going to be a big time playmaker on the field, if not this year, definitely in the future. If you watched any videos from the spring practices, you know what I mean. Being a standout player is one thing, but being a standout person is another. And Corey is both. Again, you can see the impact his parents had on raising him through his words and through his actions.
Fortunately, I was able to meet Corey before the spring game at the VIP brunch. You can tell some players don’t necessarily want to be there and are anxious for the meet-and-greet to be over. However, there are a select few that enjoy the company and conversations of their fans.
Last year at the meet-and-greet, I was really impressed by Amir Carlisle. He came off very friendly and is a “yes sir, thank you sir” kind of kid. This year I didn’t get the chance to meet as many players, but the two I did meet that really stood out were Robinson and early enrollee, James Onwualu. Both were extremely personable and seemed excited to be at Notre Dame. You could sense that they enjoyed chatting with their fans.
A vital part of the recruiting process this last year was finding kids that have a passion and love for Notre Dame. The coaches wanted to find leaders, guys that could really hold the class together while inspiring other athletes to explore the option of visiting the campus. No player did this better than Jaylon Smith. Jaylon could have been a prima donna and committed to Notre Dame and just gone off to do his own thing if he wanted. But that isn’t who he is. Jaylon wanted to try everything he could to bring in every top recruit. Smith, along with several other early recruits, decided to go with the mantra of “Irish Mob 13” and encouraged many others to join him. Almost every time a big time recruit was on campus, Smith was there to visit. Jaylon didn’t have to do that – he didn’t have to spend his time and gas going back to campus to try to help reel in another recruit – but he did.
Who knows how many decisions that may have impacted, but I know I saw several commits say the thing they really liked about the school is “the people.” In other words, “the people” like Jaylon that will go out of their way to make ND even more special than it already is.
While watching the spring game, there wasn’t a lot that stuck out to me. I know everyone was talking about Irish Chocolate and his play at quarterback as the play of the game. For me, my favorite play was watching Early Enroll, Malik Zaire throw his touchdown pass to CJ Prosise. The touchdown was one thing, but watching an overly-excited Zaire rush down the field to tackle Prosise in celebration took the cake for me. Remind you, this kid should still have been a senior in high school when the game was played, so you would expect someone to be timid. Remind you, this is the spring game and most players don’t show that kind of excitement and enthusiasm. Malik did, and I believe that passion is really going to make him something special.
I tweeted to Trent Dilfer after hearing the news of Golson being dismissed from Notre Dame. I asked Trent if he thought Malik Zaire could handle starting duties this year at Notre Dame. Most “celebrities” or ESPN personalities would just ignore a tweet like that. But Dilfer, the leader of Elite 11, sent a simple reply saying “yes”.
These are just a few examples of how great this recruiting class truly is. They were a highly-touted class on the field, and I think they are going to be very special to watch off the field. Since I started following recruiting five years ago, this class really sticks out as different and special. Could there be slip-ups? Absolutely. These are young kids, and young kids make mistakes. But one thing is for sure, the future for Notre Dame football is very bright!