Pot of Gold trading cards create Notre Dame recruiting buzz

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Rarely does a recruiting mailing turn into a piece of memorabilia.

High school prospects may collect the piles of letters they receive from colleges and a written scholarship offer may even land in a frame once a recruit makes his decision.

But Notre Dame fully committed to collectibles with its latest mailbox splash. Select top recruits in the 2017 class will receive a package of 50 trading cards with their own likeness printed on each.

The first shipment of cards, the latest tweak on the annual “Pot of Gold” mailings, started to land across the country late last week. A number of recruits took to social media to share photos and videos of their cards.

Notre Dame commit Josh Lugg, an offensive lineman from Wexford, Pa., knew a special package was headed his way, but the coaching staff kept the contents a secret.

“It's awesome,” Lugg said. “I've never had a trading card of myself. Growing up, I always collected baseball and football cards. To add this to my collection is pretty humbling and pretty neat.”

On the front of the card, Lugg is pictured wearing a Notre Dame jersey during a campus visit. In the corner, a logo mimicking Upper Deck reads “Irish Elite.” On the back of the card, Lugg’s college career at Notre Dame is described as if it already has occurred. It lists him as a 53-game starter, identifies him as a team captain and puts a national championship on his résumé.

"I get a lot of mail from other schools, but I never get anything like this,” Lugg said. “This is definitely a big thing. This is not your average mail. Any recruits who aren't committed but are thinking about Notre Dame, this will definitely help in the recruiting process for them."

Notre Dame sent 50 trading cards to top recruits in the 2017 class for their annual "Pot of Gold" mailing. Notre Dame commit Josh Lugg shared photos of his card with the Tribune. (Photo provided).

Linebacker Jacob Phillips, who remains an undecided recruit, has received his cards from Notre Dame. The East Nashville (Tenn.) Magnet junior remains on the short list of linebackers the Irish continue to recruit with three already committed to the 2017 class.

"I feel really honored to receive it,” Phillips said. “Coach (Mike Elston) told me not a lot of recruits received them. It's only a small handful of the top targets and the commits. I'm very blessed to be in the position that I am in for me to be considered to receive them."

Phillips, like Lugg, collected trading cards as a kid. This week, he started sharing his with family, friends and coaches.

Notre Dame hosted Phillips on a visit in March, but the Irish weren’t the only destination on his travel schedule. He also made trips to Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Ohio State and Ole Miss this spring.

Receiving trading cards won’t dramatically influence Phillips, but he appreciated the meaning behind the package.

“It doesn't necessarily change it, but it definitely adds more depth to it because any coach can tell you that you're his top guy,” Phillips said. “He really wants you so bad or things like that. To be put in a pack where there's evidence that you are a top guy and the one that he really wants, it adds more depth to it."

S/O to Notre Dame for the love with the #PotofGold#blessedpic.twitter.com/QGC1HfWaSq

— Jacob Phillips (@jacobphillips_1) May 7, 2016

The photos of the recruits on the cards add a level of individuality to Notre Dame’s mailing strategy. The Pot of Gold for the 2016 class included scratch-off tickets that unveiled images of players and messages. The 2015 class received 244 gold coins representing the number of consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium at the time. The first Pot of Gold weighed mail carriers down with 477 letters, the total number of NFL Draft picks from Notre Dame, for the 2014 class.

Lugg, who plans to keep a couple of the cards for himself, may run out of copies soon with the requests from his family and friends. It’s welcome attention for a player who spent much of his career out of the limelight.

"Some people want them signed, so if they want them signed, I'll sign them,” Lugg said. “It's weird for a lineman signing autographs.”

Tight end commit Brock Wright shared his cards on Twitter by poking fun at himself.

“I would've gotten a haircut if I knew that picture would end up on 50 trading cards,” he wrote.

Haircuts aside, the cards have created a buzz with some Notre Dame recruits. That’s all the Irish can hope to accomplish in another small part of the recruiting process.

"The other commits love it,” Lugg said. “It's really cool. We're all raving about it.”

I would've gotten a haircut if I knew that picture would end up on 50 trading cards #potofgold#IRISHEL17Epic.twitter.com/81vZqvIKnY

— Brock Wright (@brockjwright40) May 10, 2016

@NDFootball with the #PotofGold#IRISHEL17E ☘ ☘ pic.twitter.com/5yPrtn4fGg

— Josh Lugg (@jluggnut) May 7, 2016

Notre Dame Pot of Gold #IRISHEL17E@NDFootballpic.twitter.com/YIzvvhKx2H

— DAVID ADAMS (@David_Adams1335) May 7, 2016

look what came in today #PotOfGold#IRISHEL17Epic.twitter.com/9pXXntFnR0

— ad ⛵️ (@realaverydavis) May 10, 2016

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame sent 50 trading cards to top recruits in the 2017 class for their annual "Pot of Gold" mailing. Notre Dame commit Josh Lugg shared photos of his card with the Tribune. (Photo provided).