Notre Dame football recruiting: Luatua still firm with Irish

South Bend Tribune

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Tyler Luatua learned his first lesson about being a verbally committed prospect when he arrived in Florida for this week’s Under Armour All-America Game: Reporters will still ask about other schools.

When those questions came, Luatua told multiple outlets that he’d still be willing to take a look at USC and Alabama despite verbally committing to Notre Dame on Dec. 16. He practically wrote the headlines for ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports and Scout.

On Monday, the tight end from La Mirada, Calif., added clarity to his original comments.

"I'm really committed to Notre Dame,” Luatua said. “If they want to talk to me, I'm here to talk to them, but I'm still committed to Notre Dame.”

Cue the internet and barstool discussions on the definition of commitment.

Luatua remained honest in those moments. If Nick Saban and the coaching staff at Alabama, where his older brother Isaac plays offensive line, called he would probably answer the phone. If the new coaching staff at USC, just a 30-minute drive from his home, called he would probably answer the phone.

But on Monday, Luatua admitted that those aren’t conversations that are currently happening. His affinity for those schools didn’t evaporate upon his commitment. There’s no telling if those schools would even push for Luatua to flip his commitment.

Luatua’s recruitment lasted longer than anticipated. Recruiting analysts had predicted for months that he would wind up at Notre Dame before he finally pulled the trigger two weeks ago. He had been pulled to the Irish by wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock, ND’s lead recruiter in California, and pushed by his family who approved of Notre Dame.

"My family really loved Notre Dame,” Luatua said. “My mom really loved it out there and thinks that it would be a good college for me.”

The 6-foot-3, 243-pound, four-star prospect last visited Notre Dame for its win over USC in October.

“There were times early in the process where I wanted to commit,” Luatua said. “Coach Denbrock really got me to love ND, especially when I was out there. I love the campus and the stadium — all the tradition out there.”

Like many California recruits that end up at Notre Dame, the distance from home may seem daunting at times. Last week, Luatua tweeted, “Kinda sad leaving home for a week... Imagine leaving for college.”

But Luatua hopes to find a new home at Notre Dame with the help of senior defensive lineman Justin Utupo, a southern California native with whom he shares Samoan ties. Utupo could return to Notre Dame as a fifth-year senior next season. He’s also working on getting five-star safety prospect and close friend John “JuJu” Smith to come along with him.

How much does he talk to Smith about Notre Dame?

“Every day,” Luatua said.

Roughly the same frequency Luatua will be asked about the status of his Notre Dame commitment until signing day in February. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Tyler Luatua, a senior tight end committed to Notre Dame, will play in Thursday's Under Armour All-America Game. Photo courtesy of Under Armour.
Tyler Luatua, a senior tight end committed to Notre Dame, will play in Thursday's Under Armour All-America Game. Photo courtesy of Under Armour.