Estime brings a bigger body and big dreams to Notre Dame football freshman class
His bio almost seems outdated, because Audric Estime’s best football feels like it’s ahead of him.
One of 13 Notre Dame football freshmen in the 27-man class who begin their college journeys by reporting to campus on Friday, the running back from Nyack, N.Y., has muscled up to 226 pounds from his listed 6-foot-1, 215 listing back on signing day in mid-December.
“I saw him this past weekend at graduation,” said Dan Marangi, Estime’s High School coach at Saint Joseph Regional, nine miles away and just over the border from Nyack in Montvale, N.J.
“And I saw him all the time up by our field since the season ended — running the hills, lifting the weights and doing the wind sprints. He’s only 17, but there’s no doubt he’s ready for the transition to college.
“The kid’s worked his tail off and is not going to be denied.”
Related:Inside Recruiting: Notre Dame's must-get prospects, incoming freshmen to watch
More:Notre Dame DE commit Aiden Gobaira elevated to four-star rating from Rivals
Estime has said he owes his love of football to his mother, Bertha Noisette, who introduced him to the game when he was 4 and who died when he was 10 from sickle cell disease.
His drive to excel was nurtured by the people who helped pick up the pieces, Bertha’s brother, Garick Noisette, and sister, Marise Fede, who became the legal guardians for Estime and his older brother, Khadar.
Fede’s son, Terrence, a former NFL defensive lineman and Estime’s godfather, has been a strong influence as well.
“They’re very special people,” Marangi said. “They took him in and loved him like their own and would do anything for him. Driving him to practices. Driving him to where he needed to be. And most importantly guiding him to make the right decisions.
“There's plenty of opportunity to go in different directions, but they keep him on the straight and narrow. Ultimately, that led him to Notre Dame.”
Joining Estime in reporting Friday and starting summer school with the returning Irish players and Marshall grad transfer Cain Madden next week are fellow running back Logan Diggs, wide receivers Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie, and offensive linemen Joe Alt and Pat Coogan on offense.
Defensive end Jason Onye, linebackers Prince Kollie and Kahanu Kia, safety Khari Gee, cornerbacks Chance Tucker and JoJo Johnson, and kicker Joshua Bryan are the other newcomers.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because he was a Michigan State commitment until late in the recruiting cycle, Estime had never been to campus when he signed his national letter-of-intent six months ago.
Classmate Khari Gee still hadn't until this week.
“He did eventually make it over there,” Marangi said of Estime. “And his high school teammate, (ND junior defensive lineman) Howard Cross kind of filled him in on what he didn’t get to see.
“They’ve spoken extensively, and Howard has kind of given him an idea of what to expect —. what practices are like, what the academic requirements are, what the social aspect is like.
I think he’s got a good idea what he’s getting into, and I think he’s going to thrive.”
He certainly did last fall, playing in an abridged eight-game season in one of the toughest high school leagues in the Northeast.
Estime finished with 1,838 yards rushing and 22 TDs on 185 carries, recording two games of 300 yards or more.
“We even used him on defense a little bit this year, in certain situations, as a pass rusher,” said Marangi, who was Saint Joseph’s defensive coordinator for three years prior to being elevated to head coaching duties ahead of the 2020 season.
“He’d be a tremendous inside linebacker, obviously a scholarship kid at linebacker as well. When the game was on the line, we wanted him on the field and being involved and making the plays.”
Marangi said his players weren’t timed in the 40-yard dash over the past year-plus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But just look at the tape of our game with Bergan Catholic.” Marangi said. “There are two DBs on their roster who were on Notre Dame’s recruiting radar. And Audric left them in the dust in the secondary.”
From a size standpoint, there isn’t anyone close to Estime at 226 on the ND running back depth chart. The other four range from sophomore Chris Tyree at 188 pounds to senior C’Bo Flemister at 201.
“The coaches had mentioned that in recruiting,” Marangi said, “as far as wanting to bring in a skill set that they needed and were looking for. He fits the bill. But it’s not just size, it’s determination.
“He’s determined to impress, and I wouldn’t bet against him.”
Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI