Notre Dame DE target Joshua Pakola examining two-sport options

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Joshua Pakola has offers from some of the top college football programs in the country, but the first question his mother asks coaches recruiting her son is about another sport.

Can he play baseball here?

"If it's no," Pakola said, "then I can't go there."

The 6-foot-3, 257-pound defensive end prospect won state championships in football and baseball at Mountain View (Calif.) St. Francis as a junior. Playing third base and first base, Pakola said he hit .370 last season.

He's narrowed his focus to seven schools — Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, USC and Notre Dame — with both sports in mind.

"A lot of them are open to it," Pakola said of his opportunities to play baseball. "Pretty much all of them."

The Irish can easily point to Cole Kmet as an example of how playing both sports can work at Notre Dame. Kmet pitched in 26 games for the Irish and led the team with eight saves earlier this year following his freshman season as a tight end.

Similar to Kmet, Pakola's brightest future appears to be on the football field where his size is coveted. The four-star recruit competed in The Opening Finals in Frisco, Texas, earlier this month, Nike's annual gathering of the top college football recruits in the country.

Rivals ranks Pakola as the No. 7 strongside defensive end in the 2019 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 17 weakside defensive end.

Irish recruiting coordinator Brian Polian and defensive line coach Mike Elston have been working to get Pakola to Notre Dame for an official visit. Pakola doesn't have anything lined up quite yet, but he's definitely open to the possibility.

"I didn't know how great their academics were until they started reaching out to me and telling me about it," Pakola said. "The more they're talking about it, the more I'm starting to get interested in them. It's making me actually want to take a visit out there. I heard the campus is beautiful. Obviously they compete at a high level. Their coaches are developing a great relationship with me, so that means a lot."

Pakola has a lot of learning left to do on the Irish.

"I want to know more about the area, because I've never been out to Indiana," Pakola said. "Some people tell me it's a really nice area. Some people tell me it's in the middle of nowhere. I want to see if maybe being in the middle of nowhere is something I like or something I don't like. I have to check it out for myself even though I'm hearing it from everybody.

"I've never been on campus before, so that's going to be something to look at. I've developed a relationship with the coaches, so I know where I stand with the coaches. Maybe meet some of the players, see how I fit in that atmosphere and in that environment."

Stanford may be the perceived leader for Pakola. He attended the Oregon game at Stanford in October and returned in May for an unofficial visit. USC has also made a move for Pakola following an offer in March. Pakola made an official visit to USC, where his cousin Brandon Pili plays defensive tackle, in June.

Pakola has also been working on setting up an official visit to Oregon for a game in September. He has no timeline for a commitment decision.

"The school that I end up going to is going to be a school with great academics, great athletics and somewhere I can just be myself," Pakola said. "I don't have to change my personality, change who I am. I can go there and be myself and be around people who can make me better. Anywhere I go right now, I wouldn't be making the wrong decision."

Four-star defensive end Joshua Pakola wants to play football and baseball in college.