Why Notre Dame football's persistence flipped Pope John Paul II QB Kenny Minchey

George Robinson
Nashville Tennessean

HENDERSONVILLE ― Pope John Paul II quarterback Kenny Minchey knew he'd needed to have a difficult conversation with Pittsburgh coaches prior to his official visit to Notre Dame on Nov. 19.

Ongoing conversations with Minchey's parents and the persistent recruiting efforts of the Fighting Irish had Minchey rethinking his original commitment he made to Pitt on April 30. By the time Notre Dame put the finishing touches on its 44-0 win over Boston College in South Bend, Indiana, Minchey knew.

"I committed right after that game," said the PJP star, who signed his national letter of intent Wednesday during the December signing period with teammate Jamarr Jones, who signed with Chattanooga. "It just felt right. I can't explain it, really. You're talking about tradition, great culture and great college football atmosphere. And that's not to say Pitt didn't have all of those things, but Notre Dame is just different."

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The four-star senior quarterback announced his commitment to Notre Dame on Nov. 22. He was encouraged by his dad, Kenny Michney Sr., to make sure to "handle the Pitt situation with class and professionalism."

"I told Kenny he needed to let Pitt know that he was going to decommit before he started putting that out on social media," Minchey Sr. said. "I've always told him, you never want to burn bridges."

Minchey's decision to commit to Pitt had a lot to do with Panthers assistant and QB coach Frank Cignetti's vast coaching experience and his 11 years in the NFL working with players like Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and the New York Giants' Eli Manning.

But the opportunity to play at Notre Dame and anticipation of playing in an offense that could be loaded with weapons helped to sway Minchey. The Irish offered Minchey July 30, and on Wednesday the Irish signed a pair of four-star Texas high school wide receivers in Jaden Greathouse (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) and Braylon James (6-2, 185). The Irish also secured the signings of four-star wideout Rico Flores Jr. (6-1, 190) from Folsom, California and three-star receiver Kaleb Smith (6-0, 175) from Frisco, Texas.

Pope John Paul II QB Kenny Minchey talks with Knights fans prior to his signing day ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Minchey signed to play football at Notre Dame.

"They never really stopped recruiting me," Minchey said. "And having that talk with (head coach) Marcus Freeman was huge," Minchey said. "I think getting a chance to know him, know his vision and how it aligned with my own was a big part in making my decision.

"Obviously it was tough talking to Pitt when I decommitted, and they tried to give me reasons why I should keep my commitment with them but they also understood once they realized that this was the direction I wanted to go."

The 6-1, 215-pound Minchey is ranked as the No. 165 player in the country, the No. 13 quarterback nationally and the No. 3 player in the state according to the 247Sports Composite. He was a member of the Tennessean Dandy Dozen. Minchey completed extra courses during the fall to graduate and will enroll at Notre Dame next month.

"That's important," he said. "Just to get a chance to be there before spring ball, learn the playbook, learn the ins and outs of what's expected of me as a player and student, it's going to give me a headstart."

Minchey threw for 1,164 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, playing half the season at the preparatory school. As the full-time starter in 2021, he passed for 3,280 yards and 32 touchdowns.

This fall, he started the first four games before missing the final six regular-season games with a shoulder injury. He returned for Pope's first-round playoff game. He completed 69% of his passes for 1,007 yards and 15 touchdowns.