RECRUITING

Mustipher surprises brother, receives offer on Notre Dame visit

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Quenton Nelson ruined the surprise.

Before Saturday’s Notre Dame football practice, the Irish offensive lineman thought he noticed PJ Mustipher in the training room. Later the left guard asked center Sam Mustipher if that was indeed his younger brother that he saw.

Sam was confused. How would his brother be on campus without him knowing?

Nelson was correct. PJ and his parents arrived in South Bend on Friday night for a surprise visit. Sam finally put the pieces together when his younger brother was waiting for him on the practice field Saturday morning.

“That was pretty awesome,” PJ said. “He didn’t know.”

The trip to Notre Dame followed visits to Ohio State and Michigan State for the Mustiphers. Soon after they arrived on campus in South Bend, the stay transformed from family surprise to a recruiting visit for PJ.

PJ Mustipher had been to Notre Dame to see his older brother before, but this trip felt different. Head coach Brian Kelly shook his hand on his way to practice. Later Kelly extended Mustipher, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive tackle, a scholarship offer.

“I was able to go into all the meetings and get a chance to see what it was like to be an actual football player there,” Mustipher said.

Following his sophomore season at Owings Mills (Md.) McDonogh School, Mustipher has seen his offer list grow to include Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Tennessee. Just last week, 247Sports ranked Mustipher as the No. 4 defensive tackle and No. 24 overall in the 2018 class. The young man is officially a known commodity.

“It’s really crazy because you get all these pitches and opportunities at such a young age,” Mustipher said. “You have to keep on going. You can’t let that distract you. You have to keep on working on the football field and get better so when you do get to college, you’re the best person you can be.”

Not long ago, Mustipher was a middle schooler with hoop dreams. He still plays basketball, but shortly before he began high school he realized that he’s meant to be on the gridiron. Watching his older brother create a path for himself to Notre Dame only helped reinforce the notion.

“That’s when I realized football was going to get me to where I want to go,” Mustipher said. “I still love basketball, but football is the meal ticket.”

His older brother has served as a role model and mentor on and off the field. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he plans to make the same college choice.

“He always told me to work hard and never let all the extra stuff get to your head because there’s someone working just as hard as you somewhere else,” Mustipher said. “With the whole recruiting process, he told me not to really worry about it. It will take care of itself. That’s in God’s hands.

“Right now, I just have to focus on being the best football player I can be and the best person I can be. When it comes down to choosing a college, I have to do what’s best for me, not because he’s there. I have to do what’s best for my future.”

Notre Dame’s coaching staff can handle the recruiting pitch. Two Mustiphers certainly beat one. And if Sam stays at Notre Dame for a fifth year, the two could be squaring up against each other in practice.

Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore will try to get PJ to join his group.

“He told me I’m a great player,” PJ Mustipher said. “He’s watched my film over and over again. There are things I need to work on, he said, but right now I’m where I need to be. I’m going to take that and I’m going to keep on getting better. It was fun talking to coach Gilmore.”

Mustipher already has a relationship with tight ends coach Scott Booker from when he recruited his older brother to Notre Dame. He should expect plenty of phone calls in the next couple of years.

“We have a really good relationship,” Mustipher said. “I’ve known him for so long. It’s good. Sitting down and talking to him is just like talking to someone in your family. It was cool to talk to him and he congratulated me. He told me they’re going to recruit the heck out of me in the future.”

The competition will be tough for Mustipher. He hopes to make visits to Penn State and Clemson this summer. Yet Notre Dame will likely always be a contender for his commitment.

Less surprising things have happened.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame center Sam Mustipher, left, poses with younger brother PJ Mustipher during his Notre Dame visit. The Irish extended a scholarship offer to the younger Mustipher, a 2018 defensive tackle recruit. (Photo provided)