Stepherson commitment brings unique perspective

COMMENTARY

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Recruiting, first and foremost, is about people.

Not star ratings. Not prognosticators. Not message boards and sick edits and top-5 lists and top-10 lists and top-12 lists and top-100 lists, stretching on into infinity. It isn’t about satellite camps, the hot topic of the summer. It isn’t about slickly-produced highlight videos, complete with bass drums and flashy transitions.

It isn’t about free swag, even if Under Armour or Nike produces it. It isn’t about hashtags. It isn’t about all the flash and gimmicks that distract from real substance.

People. Student-athletes.

Players and coaches.

Remember?

In this business, in the murky haze of camp season, it can be easy to forget. But commitments are made based on relationships, on the trust a player and his family puts in a coaching staff and the vision that staff presents.

We all saw that firsthand on Friday night.

That’s when, at the conclusion of Notre Dame’s Irish Invasion camp, Jacksonville, Fla., native Kevin Stepherson verbally committed to the Irish on the Notre Dame Stadium turf. As recruits and their families milled around him, gathering their helmets before heading up the tunnel towards Touchdown Jesus’ waiting gaze, Stepherson hugged associate head coach Mike Denbrock and tight ends coach Scott Booker, his primary recruiter. He jumped up and down, literally, unable and unwilling to contain his excitement. He unleashed a grin that looked almost too big for his face, a white Notre Dame hat pulled low over his eyes.

Stepherson posed for pictures, sporting golden spikes that will match his future helmet, Denbrock’s arm draped across his shoulders. On his victory lap off the field, the wide receiver leaped to high-five the cross bar, then jumped again and shouted, his voice echoing off the blue walls of the north tunnel, a green monogram painted on either side.

He beamed, and even before he tweeted the news, everybody knew.

For reporters, this was a happy outlier in an otherwise well-defined process. These days, 95 percent of commitments break via social media, as one tweet leads to a thousand more tweets and the great race for exclusive scoop. Commitment counts are updated, phrases like “TOP TARGET” are spewed through the Twittersphere and we all spend the commitment’s aftermath staring at our computer screens (and iPhones, and tablets), detached from the humanity and emotion that makes the whole thing go.

In reality, Friday night’s commitment wasn’t different from most of the rest. A young man bought into a staff and a university, into a family that extended its arms and welcomed him in. He chose Notre Dame because of the people involved. He found a place that felt like home.

Only this time, we were lucky enough to catch a few of those precious moments, and to be reminded what recruiting is — and should be — all about.

I'm officially committed to the University of Notre dame pic.twitter.com/Kade5dnCri

— Kevin Stepherson (@KevinStepherson) June 20, 2015//