LB commit Ovie Oghoufo takes pride in representing Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

At this time next year, Ovie Oghoufo plans to be finishing up his first session of spring football practices at Notre Dame.

The three-star linebacker recruit has already laid out the plan for his next nine months. He’ll play his senior football season in the fall, graduate from Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison in December, and enroll at Notre Dame in January.

There will be plenty of trips to South Bend in between. He regularly gets the itch to return to campus and meet with his future teammates and coaches and see how the program has been progressing.

Oghoufo has been committed to the Irish since July, and has been provided with plenty of reasons to flinch from the pledge. Five different recruits in the 2017 class ditched the Irish during and after last year’s 4-8 season. But rolling with the rough patches has made Oghoufo’s commitment even stronger.

“Now that I rode with them through the season — they had the bad season, everybody knows that,” Oghoufo said. “They had the rumors, the academic stuff, all of that. It just shows to (head coach) Brian Kelly and all my other coaches over there that this guy is legit. He didn’t just back away like some other dudes.”

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound recruit doesn’t take opportunities to represent Notre Dame lightly. At The Opening Regional in Lake Forest, Ill., earlier this month, Oghoufo wore a pair of Notre Dame Under Armour shorts to the Nike-sponsored camp. When he made a nice play, he made sure to point to his shorts on at least one occasion.

Oghoufo even put on a Notre Dame hat for a photo shoot after he was awarded linebacker MVP honors for his performance. The hat’s bill was misshapen from being shoved into his bag, but having “IRISH” on top of his head was more important.

“It’s been great representing my city, Southfield, representing Farmington Hills Harrison, and representing the University of Notre Dame,” Oghoufo said. “Knowing that I won MVP for the University of Notre Dame, for my city, for Farmington Hills Harrison, it was great to go back and share that with them.”

Despite the clear alliance to Notre Dame, Oghoufo said coaches from other schools are still aggressively pursuing him. He named Stanford and Penn State as programs “trying to flip me hard.” It’s all a part of the recruiting process that Oghoufo has come to understand well. Spanning back to when he originally committed to Notre Dame, Oghoufo heard from people trying to keep him from leaving his home state.

“When I first committed, I got a hard time. It was bad,” Oghoufo said. “I had a hard time. Everybody was telling me, ‘Why not Michigan? Why not Michigan?’

“I have a dude that just got a walk-on spot, and he’s out here sending me (photos of) helmets on Snapchat and everything. As far as Michigan and Michigan State, I like the coaches over there. I’m just committed.”

Oghoufo has even embraced the role of recruiter, pushing fellow Michigan resident Kalon Gervin to join the Irish class. The two visited campus together back in February before Gervin, a four-star cornerback, committed to Notre Dame. Oghoufo insists he was pressing before the Irish coaching staff even extended Gervin an offer.

“I was pushing the offer actually,” Oghoufo said. “I was so excited when he committed. When he committed, I talked to (defensive backs) coach (Todd) Lyght, and he was thanking me. … (Gervin) was a big get. He could have went to 30 other schools, and he chose Notre Dame.”

Oghoufo doesn’t need to know a recruit well to give him the Notre Dame pitch. He’s nailed down the basics of what he wants to tell anyone interested in Notre Dame.

“I say the same thing. ‘If you rock with it, you rock with it. If you don’t, find somewhere else.’ That’s pretty much what I say,” Oghoufo said. “A lot of kids actually do. I talked to (four-star defensive end Thomas) Booker the other week after his visit. He said he really enjoyed it. I’m hoping we can get him too, because he’s a big get. If we get that, it’s crazy.”

Plenty of positive adjectives have been used to describe Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting class. With 12 commitments already in the class, the Irish have grown the group at an unprecedented pace for Kelly’s tenure following his worst season in South Bend.

Recruits like Oghoufo vouching for the program are a big part of the reasons why.

“It’s amazing, because we’re trying to turn the program around,” Oghoufo said. “Being committed is another sign to the coaches, to the university as a whole that you still have people over here that care about the program. I really care about the program, and they do too.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame linebacker commit Ovie Oghoufo received an invitation to The Opening Finals on Sunday. (Tribune Photo/TYLER JAMES)