Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 FEBRUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED N otre Dame assistant coaches Brian Polian and Mike Elston had a bit of a friendly wager during this recent recruiting season as to which one took the lon- ger trip to make a home visit. Polian's went from Chi- cago to Honolulu to visit defensive lineman Jordan Botelho. Elston's was from Chicago to Dusseldorf, Ger- many, to meet defensive end Alexander Ehrensberger. Both players ended up at Notre Dame. "The big deal for [Coach Elston] was, 'Boy that was a long flight,'" Polian joked. "I still think Chicago to Hono- lulu is a bit longer. We might have to settle the bet with that one." For the record, Google in- dicates that Polian is correct, but just barely. Polian's flight to Hawai'i was 4,243 miles, 13 miles longer than Elston's Germany journey. Both coaches were on an airplane for more than 10 hours, but that's just part of the recruiting gig at Notre Dame. "We used to say in recruiting that we're a national brand," Polian said. "But in reality, we have actually become an international brand and that offers a unique opportunity for us to literally recruit ocean to ocean." The 18 players from the 2020 recruiting class who signed their National Letter of Intent to play at Notre Dame on Dec. 18 come from one foreign country and 15 different states. The 2019 Notre Dame team fea- tured players from 29 different states — all the way from Vancou- ver, Wash., and San Diego on the West Coast to Jamestown, R.I., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on the East Coast. And that's only on the U.S. mainland. Alohi Gilman, Marist Liufau and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa all came from Hawai'i, and wide receiver/ Team MVP Chase Claypool was from British Columbia, Canada. "The cross-section of the play- ers that we have in the program, it's pretty amazing in terms of the diversity of the group," head coach Brian Kelly said. "But they all have one common thread, and that is, they want to be challenged in the classroom and they want to be chal- lenged on the football field. "So that is the common denomi- nator that keeps them coming from all over the country, from the West Coast to the East Coast." For comparison sake, only 18 players on Alabama's 120-man ros- ter — walk-ons included — come from states north of the Mason- Dixon Line, and only 31 of that group hail from states other than Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. And as Polian explained, with representation from all 50 states and more than 70 foreign countries, the Notre Dame student body is even more diverse than its football team. "Our students come from every- where and our team comes from everywhere," Polian said. "The one thing that binds us all together is the love for Our Lady's University." With a continually increas- ing influx of Hawaiian play- ers on the Irish roster, ever since star linebacker Manti Te'o enjoyed his brilliant career at Notre Dame from 2009-12, the long flight to Ho- nolulu for Polian has become rather routine and lucrative in attracting talented players. "I'm just the guy who drives everybody around in Hawai'i," he said. "Because I know where I'm going!" In addition to a growing number of Polynesian play- ers coming to the mainland to play college football, Polian sees another interna- tional trend unfolding with Australian players showing an increased interest in the American game. Ben Griffiths, a Melbourne native, is a 28-year-old red- shirt freshman punter for USC whose official website bio reads in part, "one of the oldest Trojan players ever." Griffiths, who feels jilted by that description, is getting such a late start on his college football career because he spent eight seasons from 2010-17 as a 6-5, 250-pound forward in the Australian Football League. "I want to know who the oldest is," Griffiths joked in a story for The Athletic. "Because I want to try and beat them if I can." Two incoming Irish players from New Jersey in this 2020 class, and another from Hawai'i, and every- where in between, and beyond, help to illustrate the widening net Notre Dame recruiters continually cast. "The reach of Notre Dame, the brand of Notre Dame, how many other places could do that?" Polian rhetorically asked. "There aren't very many schools in the country that can make that reach and do so successfully. It's a powerful brand; it's one that makes recruiting here a lot of fun." ✦ Notre Dame Recruiters Casting A Wide Net UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Notre Dame's 18-man 2020 recruiting haul in December was comprised of players from 15 different states, and also included defensive end Alexander Ehrensberger from Dusseldorf, Germany. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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