Distance never played a role in Nana Osafo-Mensah’s recruitment.
The four-star defensive end from Fort Worth (Texas) Nolan Catholic could have opted for proximity and committed to Texas. Instead, Osafo-Mensah announced his pledge to Notre Dame last weekend.
He had the full support of his parents.
“My parents loved everything about Notre Dame,” Osafo-Mensah said. “It wasn’t even a hard decision. They’re also really big on academics. Me going to a school that has an Ivy League type of education and also with a great athletic standard is really cool. They liked that.”
Osafo-Mensah’s parents aren’t strangers to traveling either. Both were born in Ghana. His mother, Joyce, emigrated to New Jersey. His father, Kwaku, came to California, where the two eventually met.
Not long after NaNa was born, the family moved to New Mexico before settling into Fort Worth in 2005. Now they have plenty of trips to South Bend in their future.
Both parents joined NaNa on his official visit to Notre Dame in April. On that visit, he told Notre Dame’s coaching staff he wanted to commit behind the scenes. He still had an official visit to Texas in May to make before sharing his decision publicly.
“It was hard. I’m not going to lie,” NaNa Osafo-Mensah said. “The Texas visit was a lot of fun. But still the whole time I was there in the back of my mind I was still thinking about how much fun my Notre Dame visit was and how much I like those coaches and those players up there. Although it was tempting to possibly flip, I stuck to my original commitment and stayed with Notre Dame.”
Osafo-Mensah, who also had offers from the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Michigan and USC, said the culture at Notre Dame separated it from Texas.
“Notre Dame provided me with more opportunities as a student because of all the foreign exchange programs and being able to meet so many different people up there,” Osafo-Mensah said. “The players are from different parts of the world. Being able to be a part of a school that has that factor in it really appealed to me in a positive way.”
While on his official visit at Notre Dame, Osafo-Mensah spent a lot of time with linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath, who was born in Sweden, and defensive end Khalid Kareem, a product of Detroit. Fellow Notre Dame defensive line commits Hunter Spears and Jacob Lacey were also on campus making official visits that weekend.
Part of the visit was spent at head coach Brian Kelly’s lake house. The Irish coaching staff attempted to put together a weekend that had a family feel to it. It worked for Osafo-Mensah.
“They’re going to be my roommates, my teammates, my classmates and all that,” Osafo-Mensah said. “Being able to spend that weekend with them and being able to hang out with their families was a really cool experience because I can really see myself enjoying my time at Notre Dame with players like them.”
Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston led Osafo-Mensah’s recruitment for the Irish. He’s already put together four commitments in the 2019 class on the defensive line with Osafo-Mensah, Spears, Lacey and defensive end Howard Cross III. All four are rated as four-star recruits.
If Osafo-Mensah signs with Notre Dame, he’ll become the first recruit pegged as a four-star weakside defensive end end to join the Irish program since Julian Okwara in the 2016 class. Elston convinced Osafo-Mensah of his fit in Notre Dame’s defense with a detailed plan.
“He actually sat down and talked with me about his exact plan, how he’s going to develop me for every single stage I’m going to be at Notre Dame,” Osafo-Mensah said. “Another cool thing he dad was he made a PowerPoint showing plays that I made in my junior season and compared them to some of the plays that his own players made in their season.
“Him sitting down and showing me that plan really had me trusting him. I know exactly what he’s going to be doing to get me to my best potential.”
That potential is immense. 247Sports slates Osafo-Mensah as the No. 5 weakside defensive end and No. 68 overall in the 2019 class. The Irish have not signed a weakside defensive end ranked that high by 247Sports in the Kelly era. Okwara was pegged as the No. 25 weakside defensive end in the 2016 class.
Rivals ranks Osafo-Mensah as the No. 6 outside linebacker in the class. Osafo-Mensah plays both positions in his defense at Nolan Catholic.
“I want to make sure I keep developing my skill set and staying humble the whole time,” Osafo-Mensah said. “It doesn’t matter that I’m a Notre Dame commit. I’m still a Nolan Catholic football player. I’m going to make sure I keep up to my standards and help out my team in any way.”
Osafo-Mensah still has a senior season to finish before he can move into his new home.
“That’s what really made me comfortable making that decision to go up there,” he said. “I felt that even though it’s a far place from home, I’m still going to have the father figures, the mother figures and a family like I do back here in Texas.”