WR signee Lawrence Keys III happy to bring speed to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Long before he ended his recruitment, Lawrence Keys III had been leaning toward Notre Dame.

When Irish wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander visited his school last spring, the product of New Orleans McDonogh 35 started to feel strongly about the program. But the three-star wide receiver waited until Jan. 19 to take his first steps on campus.

By the end of that official visit, Keys had a pretty good idea he would end up signing with the Irish.

“When I was on my official visit I felt like it was home,” Keys said. “It was also about the degree. If I get that ND degree, I can go anywhere after football.”

Keys didn’t end his recruitment after the trip to Notre Dame. He still followed through on official visits to Texas and SMU. Then on National Signing Day last week, he locked up his scholarship to Notre Dame.

"It means a lot,” Keys said. “A lot folks down here don't get recruited by Notre Dame that much. It's an accomplishment with the grades that I have and the way I carry myself on and off the field.”

Louisiana hasn’t been a recruiting hotbed for Notre Dame football. Before adding Keys earlier this month, wide receiver Michael Young in 2017 and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery in 2015, the Irish hadn’t signed a recruit from the state since cornerback Albert Poree in 1999.

Poree’s career at Notre Dame only lasted one season. Following his freshman year, he transferred to Georgia Tech. But that wasn’t the end of Poree’s relevance for Notre Dame. He coached Keys last season as the offensive coordinator at McDonogh 35.

Keys made sure to speak with Young, who caught a six-yard touchdown pass in Notre Dame’s Citrus Bowl victory over LSU, about his New Orleans-to-South Bend decision.

“I asked him 'What was it like for you transitioning from here to ND?’” Keys said. “Everything was positive. It was the best fit for him. It was best that he got away from the city.”

For both Young and Keys, LSU ended up not being a realistic option. Young never received a scholarship offer from the Tigers. And even though Keys added an LSU offer 10 days before the Irish offered last February, the LSU coaching staff took commitments from four wide receivers in the 2018 class without hosting Keys for an official visit.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Keys claimed an impressive list of offers for a three-star recruit. Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas A&M were among the schools to offer Keys at various points. That interest didn’t necessarily translate into his recruiting rankings.

247Sports slated Keys as the No. 79 wide receiver in the 2018 class. Rivals didn’t include him on its list of the top 100 wide receivers.

Regardless of his ranking, Notre Dame found room for Keys. He became the fourth wide receiver to join the class alongside early enrollee Micah Jones and four-star recruits Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy.

“After visiting with him and his coaches and being there a number of times, we recognized that (Keys) has a lot of grit,” Alexander said. “He’s a playmaker. He’s different. He’s different in a lot of ways. He’s different on and off the field.”

According to NOLA.com, Keys caught 58 passes for more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior season. Keys recorded an underwhelming 40-yard dash in 4.76 seconds at The Opening regional for the New Orleans area last March, but his film shows him running away from defenders.

That’s a skill the Irish have been looking for at wide receiver. Keys is glad Notre Dame identified him as the one to help provide it.

"I've been watching them for a minute, since Will Fuller was there,” Keys said. “I like how they spread the offense out and how they use their slot receiver.

“They were in need of speed. I was happy they were in need of speed. So I just joined the program.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Wide receiver Lawrence Keys III puts on a Notre Dame hat on National Signing Day at McDonogh 35 in New Orleans on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Chris Granger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)