Notre Dame players have role in recruiting process

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The recruiting process can be so perfectly planned that it's difficult for prospects to decipher reality.

Campus visits, recruiting mail and messages from coaches are all crafted to portray a certain message. That’s why recruits often turn to college players trying to find the truth.

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller said he makes sure to have honest conversations with recruits while they’re on campus.

“It’s real important because they probably have a lot of people coming at them at different angles and telling them different things,” Fuller said. “Getting advice and things about the school from people who are really there is important.”

When Fuller was a recruit out of Philadelphia Roman Catholic, he spoke to then-freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell to get the unfiltered version of life as a Notre Dame football player.

“He walked me around campus and stuff,” Fuller said. “It was really important him telling me how it really is.”

The most important conversations for a recruit often come with younger players on the team. Those players could be future teammates and aren’t too separated from the recruiting process themselves.

For Irish defensive tackle Sheldon Day, his connection to the program came through then-freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch. The two grew close in 2011 before Lynch transferred away from Notre Dame the following year.

“Aaron Lynch was kind of my inside guy,” Day said. “We talked pretty much every two weeks and stayed in communication. He made me feel like I was part of the team, and I was still a recruit. That gave me a good insight of Notre Dame.”

Day has made sure to return the favor during his Notre Dame career. Now a senior, his message has started to sound like one delivered from the coaching staff. It can signal to recruits that the program is as advertised.

“Just knowing how special this place is, I make sure they know that,” Day said. “It’s not a four-year decision. It’s a forty-year decision. It’s how much this place can change you as a man and grow you as a great human being.”

Fifth-year senior Matthias Farley didn’t need much convincing when he was a recruit. Farley doesn’t remember talking to any players while he visited Notre Dame as a junior recruit. He was ready to commit on the spot.

“I was like, ‘I want to go to school here,’” Farley said. “My high school coach was like, ‘Matthias, wait until you talk to your parents.’ So I was like, ‘Alright. I’ll talk to them tomorrow, but I’m coming.’”

Farley was eventually hosted by defensive backs Austin Collinsworth and Bennett Jackson when he returned to campus. In his first few years at Notre Dame, Farley would often have discussions with recruits while on campus, but he never felt that his thoughts would impact anyone’s decision.

“The unique thing about Notre Dame is I don’t think anybody really has to sell you on it, Farley said. “It sells itself. I always tell people it’s the best decision you’ll ever make whether you play a snap or not. You’re going to walk away with a degree from one of the best universities in the world. The doors that will open for you will probably do a lot more than football ever will.”

Farley said it’s easy to see if the message has hit home, but it’s harder to predict which delivery method will work. Making sure a recruit gets to hear from people in different parts of the program increases those odds.

“You can tell instantly with a guy,” Farley said. “The lights go on. Their eyes light up. ‘This is where I want to be.’”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Left to right: Sophomore Quenton Nelson, 2017 commit Dillan Gibbons (in the back), sophomore Alex Bars, 2016 commit Tommy Kraemer and 2016 commit Liam Eichenberg watch Notre Dame football prospects during Irish Invasion Friday, June 19, 2015 in South Bend. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)