WR Jordan Pouncey finds new home at Notre Dame

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Jordan Pouncey decided to stay, so he left.

But only for a minute.

After the third-annual Irish Invasion camp concluded around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 186-pound wide receiver made a hasty exit from Notre Dame Stadium. He headed up the north tunnel and into the shadows, where the only guy that could see him was Touchdown Jesus — a silent spectator keeping watch over the quad.

Pouncey’s emotions poured out in pent-up waves. Joy. Relief. Overwhelming pride.

“I had to leave the stadium because I had tears rolling down my face. I was crying,” Pouncey said. “I had to take a few deep breaths and then I approached coach (Brian) Kelly, and it was a great feeling.”

That feeling, Pouncey says, is difficult to describe. It lingered throughout the Winter Park, Fla., native’s first visit to Notre Dame and the state of Indiana in general. It greeted him wherever he went, from the shadows of the north tunnel to the tip of the golden dome.

It was unlike anything he had felt in the consensus three-star prospect’s other visits — even at Florida, where his cousins, twin offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, once starred.

“Really, everything,” Pouncey responded, when asked to list his highlights of the weekend. “I remember it all, because they were all highlights. It wasn’t just, ‘Oh, this is kind of cool, but this wasn’t.’ It was all really good. I loved the place.”

Notre Dame loved him back — especially last weekend, when the temperature hovered invitingly in the 80’s and the sun shined obediently throughout much of his South Bend trip.

It won’t always be that way. Pouncey knows it. But he also knows that he won’t be the first Florida native to survive and succeed in South Bend’s frosty winters.

“The funny thing is, there had to be at least five coaches, when they were speaking, that said, ‘And by the way, the weather is like this 365 days a year,’” Pouncey said with a laugh.

“The reason why I like (running backs coach and Notre Dame all-time rushing leader Autry) Denson so much, he’s from Florida, and I can relate to him. I have so much trust in him that if he did it, I can do it too.”

Pouncey will have plenty of company. The Winter Park High School standout became Notre Dame’s 12th commit in the 2017 class and its second of the weekend, joining fellow Florida native and three-star defensive end Jonathon MacCollister. Since Denson came onboard as the team’s running backs coach last March, 11 — count them, 11 — Florida recruits have committed to Notre Dame.

The latest did so in the stands of Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night, after drying his eyes and gathering his composure.

“When I was there, I’ve never felt more at home anywhere else,” said Pouncey, who hugged Kelly after delivering his commitment. “Academically and athletically, it’s one of the best universities in the country.

“They know what they’re doing and I’ve seen what they’ve done for receivers, and that’s the level I want to be on. They’re going to help me get there.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Jordan Pouncey participates in the Irish Invasion at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, June 18, 2016. ND Insider Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA