Meet Blake Fisher, Notre Dame's biggest unpaid recruiter for the 2021 class
There’s a science behind Blake Fisher’s pursuit of fellow recruits out of the 2021 football class.
Members of the Notre Dame coaching staff often alert Fisher when a new top target emerges, encouraging him to reach out. But the top Irish offensive line commit also likes to size up these players himself.
“I watch each of these guys’ film and read articles to see what type of dudes they are,” Fisher said. “How they speak in interviews to see what type of people they are. Then I get on the phone with them, try to talk with them and try to see their personalities.”
Once he determines they fit the mold of Notre Dame, Fisher goes to work. Text messages, social media, phone calls, FaceTime calls — multiple forms of communication are used by Fisher daily to connect and build relationships with them.
Not long after pledging in June, Fisher assumed this role of Notre Dame’s biggest unpaid recruiter of the 2021 class. The Avon (Ind.) High product has played a part in the Irish holding the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class behind Ohio State, per 247Sports and Rivals.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Fisher leads the seven-player group on Rivals, ranking as its No. 4 offensive tackle and No. 18 overall player. 247Sports pegs Fisher No. 16 at the position and No. 88 overall.
“My parents have raised me to be a leader. Lead by example,” Fisher said. “That’s a big thing at Avon, to be a leader. You want to surround yourself with guys that have the same mentality as you. That have the same work ethic as you. The same drive and motivation.”
Sustaining a top three class ranking will require Notre Dame to land more talent similar in pedigree to its seven four-star commits: wide receivers Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie, tight end Cane Berrong, offensive linemen Greg Crippen and Fisher, quarterback Tyler Buchner and defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio.
A coordinated visit from six of those seven, excluding Crippen, for Notre Dame’s Oct. 12 home game against USC, helped land Styles and Colzie. Colzie pledged to the Irish that weekend. Styles made his two-month silent commitment public.
In the weeks leading up to their decisions, Fisher said he called Colzie and Styles every other day.
“He just kept calling me to make sure I stuck with that (silent commitment),” Styles said. “We were talking like, ‘Let’s come here and make something special happen at Notre Dame.’ I liked what he was talking about, and I liked the coaching staff. I felt comfortable.”
The seven Irish commits have continued this recruiting tactic, a collaborative approach headed by Fisher. They communicate with each other about who they are targeting and provide updates on how their conversations went.
Their next goal? Organizing the biggest official visit weekend of the Brian Kelly Era.
“We are going after the top guys,” Fisher said. “The big thing that helps us a lot is all of our commits are pushing, trying and we are all helping. We are building relationships.”
On the weekend of April 3-5 or June 19-21, Notre Dame’s pledges hope to take an official visit to South Bend. They are encouraging top Irish targets to join them. Fisher also plans to visit for Notre Dame’s Feb. 1 junior day and on March 20-21. His three-hour drive from Avon makes scheduling trips to South Bend easier.
Fisher named the following recruits as his top targets: running backs Will Shipley and Donovan Edwards, wide receivers Dont’e Thornton Jr. and Beaux Collins, offensive linemen Rocco Spindler, Landon Tengwall, Wyatt Milum, Nolan Rucci and Reuben Fatheree II, defensive end Aaron Armitage, cornerback Jakailin Johnson and safety JD Coffey. Styles mentioned Johnson and Thornton as his top targets.
Spindler, Tengwall, Milum and Rucci are expected to join Fisher for the March trip. All of them are ranked among the top 45 overall players on 247Sports. Fisher helped offensive line coach Jeff Quinn schedule those visits by contacting them within the last week.
“It’s just about building relationships,” Fisher said. “That’s one main thing people look for in the recruiting process — at least I know I did. Relationships are huge. When you get on campus, you already have that relationship so nothing is really awkward. You aren’t really meeting people. You already met them. It’s just seeing them in person.”
Matthews (N.C.) Weddington’s Shipley, maybe Notre Dame’s top target among that group, considers Fisher as one of his closest friends from the recruiting process. He’s looking to join Notre Dame’s commits for that vaunted official visit weekend.
“You look at him, and he’s a little bit scary at first glance,” said Shipley of Fisher. “But once you get an actual chance to know him, get a chance to talk to him a couple times per week, and you realize how good-hearted he is and how much he actually cares.
“When he has so much passion for a place like Notre Dame, it intrigues you because with such a good kid like that, being so committed with where he wants to go so early, it shows that the program is obviously thriving and attracting kids like Blake Fisher.
“It makes me intrigued by Notre Dame a little bit more.”
Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia are among major schools that extended scholarship offers to Shipley. No class of commits has bonded with him more than Notre Dame’s 2021 pledges, Shipley said. He also talks with Buchner, Colzie, Berrong and Rubio on a weekly basis.
Those relationships started with Fisher, who forged a connection with Shipley long before finally meeting him and his family during their Oct. 12 visit.
“When you have trust, that becomes confidence,” Fisher said. “Then you feel closer, like you have a brotherhood with those guys. The more we do that, we will continue to get those big guys and those big names.
“Irish fans in the next several months will be very excited, because we are on the come up. We’ve got some things in the works.”