UPDATE: Notre Dame football recruiting: Irish snag blue-chip RB Hood
Two trips to Notre Dame were exactly what Elijah Hood needed to commit to the Irish.
The junior running back wasn't sure that would happen before a two-day campus visit that ended Sunday, but by the time it was over, he couldn't imagine anything else.
"Officially committing to The University of Notre Dame! #GoIrish #ND #BlueAndGold," Hood wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening, breaking the news.
The 5-foot-11, 221-pound prospect from Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic became the eighth recruit to verbally commit to Notre Dame's 2014 class, and the first at the running back position.
"It came down to the people," Hood said in a phone interview Sunday night. "They're great people. I can't find people like that anywhere. It's a great family at Notre Dame."
Hood visited Notre Dame once before with a high school coach in February and returned this past weekend with his parents. On the most recent visit, Hood learned how much the coaching staff cares about the players beyond the field.
"They care about their players and they treat their players well," Hood said. "They make an effort to develop their players and help them get a better life after football."
Hood ranks as the No. 12 overall recruit in the 2014 class on Rivals and No. 1 in the athlete category. 247Sports.com slates Hood at No. 127 overall and the ninth-best athlete.
Steve Wiltfong, national recruiting writer for 247Sports, called Hood one of the most prolific running backs in the country. He rushed for 3,309 yards and 48 touchdowns last season.
"This is one of Notre Dame's top prospects on the board overall," Wiltfong said. "Taking a running back in this class, after the class they got last year, Notre Dame was only looking to land big-timers and they certainly got one in Elijah Hood."
The first four months of 2013 couldn't have gone much better for Notre Dame in recruiting running backs. Hood could provide another dimension to the Irish running game to complement 2013 signees Greg Bryant (5-11, 200) and Tarean Folston (5-10, 190).
"The perception on Folston and Bryant is that they're scat backs. Those guys can get it done in between the tackles too," Wiltfong said. "Elijah Hood's going to be bigger than those guys. He's going to be a load. He's going to look like (Eddie) Lacy from Alabama, where those other guys look more like Theo Riddick."
Holding offers from a host of schools, including Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State and USC, Hood had plenty of options. North Carolina had emerged as the top competition for Hood's pledge, but a return trip to Notre Dame won over the running back.
"Everyone perceived North Carolina as the team to beat before this visit," Wiltfong said. "To get Elijah back on campus when North Carolina had all the momentum, to get his parents on campus and to win the whole family over, it was a really nice job by the whole Notre Dame coaching staff."
Hood's not afraid to admit that going to school so far from home was something he has been battling with. North Carolina would have been the easier choice, but Hood felt that Notre Dame was the right one.
"I still don't want to go that far, but Notre Dame's a better place," Hood said. "I have to do it. I have to suck it up, be a man, go out there and make myself a better person, which they will help me do."
Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston continues to have success recruiting in Charlotte. Four players from the area have signed with Notre Dame since 2010, most recently offensive lineman Mark Harrell and linebacker Romeo Okwara in 2012. Harrell attended the same high school as Hood.
Running backs coach Tony Alford and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin also assisted in the recruitment of Hood. And while head coach Brian Kelly wasn't on campus for Hood's most recent visit -- he was working in New York as a part of the NFL Network's draft coverage -- he had already met Hood on his previous visit in February.
The relationship that Hood has started to build with his future position coach was a huge pull.
"Coach Alford, he's a good man," Hood said. "He's like a dad kinda already for me. I think I can do great things underneath that man."
The Irish found a little momentum in the 2014 recruiting cycle in April, snagging three commitments in the past two weeks: Hood, tight end Nic Weishar and offensive guard Sam Mustipher. The addition of Hood gave Notre Dame a nice boost in team recruiting rankings, up to No. 6 on Rivals and 247Sports.