CB commit Julian Love anxious to start Notre Dame career

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — Julian Love’s patience will be tested over the next eight months.

He’s more than ready to start his football career at Notre Dame, but he also is planning a big finish to his senior season at Nazareth Academy.

“I wish I could graduate early,” Love said Friday night after a 49-22 win in his regular-season finale. “I'll finish the season, hopefully win state again and the next week I want to be there.”

Love will have to wait until June to join the Irish, but he’s been a regular visitor on campus this season. Love has yet to miss a Notre Dame home game and plans to attend the final one of the season in November against Wake Forest.

“It's awesome,” said Love, a cornerback prospect. “Now that Naz has Friday night games it helps tremendously. I can get there early and tailgate with family and friends and enjoy the experience. I just want to be there. I know I'm enjoying the high school process, but I truly just want to be there."

Love has friends and a girlfriend already enrolled at Notre Dame. He’s been verbally committed to the Irish since March and spends his visits trying to recruit others to join him.

When St. Viator tight end Cole Kmet, a junior, received an offer from Notre Dame in June, Love made sure to text him a recruiting pitch. Kmet joined Love with a verbal commitment earlier this month. The two met on the field Friday night, but the pleasantries were left on the sideline.

Kmet, playing quarterback for the first time, ran into Love on a carry into the secondary on the game’s first drive. Love stood him up, stripped the ball from Kmet and returned the fumble 55 yards for a touchdown.

Love refused to follow-up Kmet’s mistake with a little trash talk.

“I can't,” Love said. "He's a brother."

It was the first of four scores for Love, who played safety, running back and wide receiver, in the rainy victory for Nazareth (7-2). He also reached the end zone on a 13-yard reception and touchdown runs of two and 14 yards.

Love may be ready to start his Notre Dame career, but his coach isn’t ready to let him go just yet.

"He's one of those kids that makes a coach look good,” said Nazareth head coach Tim Racki, “so we're blessed to have him here.”

Love has been impressing Racki since his freshman year. Love treated a coaching decision as a slight and earned his way onto the varsity as a sophomore.

“He just never stopped. He was always working out and working,” Racki said. “He really turned being disappointed about not being pulled up to the sophomore team as a freshman into motivation. I've never seen a kid that was that focused and worked that hard at that age to want to make the varsity.”

The physical traits of Love have matured as he’s developed into a 5-foot-11, 175-pound prospect. Yet the potential has always been there in Racki’s eyes.

“He's gotten bigger. He's gotten faster. He's gotten stronger. But he's always been a smart player even as a sophomore,” Racki said. “He has the uncanny ability to know angles on the field. He has a very high football IQ when he's running as far as knowing where a defender is going to be or where the ball carrier is going or where the quarterback is throwing the ball.

The Roadrunners sped through an undefeated 2014 season led by Love. He totaled 1,327 offensive yards, 72 tackles, 25 touchdowns and five interceptions as a two-way star for the Class 6A state champions.

Nazareth ran its winning streak to 17 games before losing in September to Marian Central Catholic. Three weeks later the Roadrunners lost again to Joliet Catholic Academy. Racki credited Love for helping refocus the team to get back on track for a playoff bid.

“We're a very young team,” Love said. “Young guys who didn't necessarily play last year thought that we kind of had it in a bag. We could go undefeated and it was easy. It was a learning experience. After the JCA game, all of us could just tell that we grew up. That's huge. It helps us. Those two failures help us in the second season.”

Racki has the luxury of playing Love at multiple positions to prevent such failures in what the Roadrunners hope is a five-game playoff run to another state championship. Love can carry the load on offense or shut down a standout receiver on defense.

Notre Dame wants Love to settle into the cornerback position when he arrives on campus next year. Time spent helping his team in multiple roles may have prevented him from making big strides as a defensive back, but he hopes to sharpen those skills throughout the winter and spring.

Love could also turn into one of a number of players who has benefitted from a position switch following the original projection of Notre Dame’s coaching staff under Brian Kelly. Only time will tell what the future holds for Love in South Bend. He just hopes it gets here soon.

“I'll play special teams all four years if it puts me on the field,” Love said.  “I'll play anything. I can throw the ball so maybe a little halfback pass. I'll do anything honestly. I just love the program and will do anything for it.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Three-star cornerback commit Julian Love scored four touchdowns in his final regular season game as a senior. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune/John J. Kim)