Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2021

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

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42 NOV. 27, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY MIKE SINGER T here was no top schools list. No an- nouncing of an impending commit- ment date. Just a good, old out-of-the- blue commitment. Mentor (Ohio) High class of 2023 de- fensive lineman Brenan Vernon shocked the country on June 29 when he spurned the in-state Ohio State Buckeyes in fa- vor of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. "I wasn't exactly going for a specific reaction out of any- one, but I did think people would be shocked because I'm an Ohio boy," Vernon told Blue & Gold Illustrated. Very few folks outside the Notre Dame coaching staff knew the four-star prospect would be committing to the Fighting Irish when he did. "A l o t o f p e o p l e we re shocked, but my close bud- dies had a good idea because I would talk about how much I love Notre Dame and how I don't feel the same anywhere else," he added. "Around the city of Mentor, people were surprised but were excited that I found my place." A few months into his decision, Ver- non is still over the moon about picking the Fighting Irish. "I couldn't be happier," he said. "It's been great. The only thing I've got to worry about is my normal, day-to-day life. I don't have to focus on which school I'm going to choose. It's all lined up." Vernon, who Rivals ranks as the na- tion's No. 3 strong-side defensive end and No. 8 overall player in the 2023 cy- cle, wishes he could be at Notre Dame right now but he has a full year and some change to go. "I'm ready for this new chapter in my life," Vernon said. "South Bend already feels like home." THE DREAM TEAM Ohio State was considered the heavy favorite to land Vernon. All the crystal balls and forecasts read that the 6-5, 250-pounder would pick the Buckeyes. One sizeable aspect in Vernon's deci- sion to pick the Fighting Irish was the small campus atmosphere that suited his personality much better than Ohio State, which has more than six times the student population of Notre Dame. A n o t h e r h u ge fa c to r wa s No t re Dame's recruiting "dream team" of de- fensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, defensive line coach Mike Elston and director of defensive recruiting Chad Bowden. "He has a great soul," Vernon said of Freeman. "He's such a great guy in gen- eral, just like the rest of them. All three of those guys together are the dream team. There's nothing else to say about Freeman other than he's just such a great person." Bowden does a lot of the day-to-day phone calls and text messaging with prospects on the defensive side of the ball, including Vernon. With Bowden being 27 years old, he relates to pros- pects in a unique way. "He's great. He's a character," Vernon said. "I love that guy so much. He's the life of the party. He's a big ball of energy." If one is to assign the most credit in Notre Dame pulling off the "upset" in landing Vernon, it's Elston. Vernon was the very first prospect Notre Dame of- fered in the 2023 class all the way back in January 2020, and they built a strong connection. "He's such a pure guy," Vernon said. "He has a goofy side to him, and the way he coaches is amazing to me. I connect with him so well. He's an overall great guy who I love spending time with and can't wait to play for. "I love the guy; I already have such a strong connection with him." Vernon's bond with the Notre Dame staff hasn't scaled back since his com- mitment. "They strive to maintain that relation- ship," he added. "It's not just me reach- ing out; they'll contact me as well. It means a lot to me. They really do care." THE SHOE FITS Unless Vernon is in cleats for a football game, he's probably wearing his favorite shoe brand — Vans. Founded in Anaheim, Calif., in 1996, the American manu- factured brand is centered around skateboard shoes and apparel. While Vernon doesn't do much skateboarding these days, that vibe fits his style. "I'm a laid-back kind of guy," he said. "I keep to my- self. Vans is such a chill, ex- pressive silhouette of a shoe. I love them. If there was any brand I'd want to be sponsored by, it would be Vans." Currently, Vernon only owns about a half-dozen pair of Vans. He'd own more if he didn't cycle through them so often. "I beat the hell out of them; I wear them non-stop," he said. "I like my Vans dirty. They show some character." Vernon visited Notre Dame June 6 and noticed that Freeman and Bowden were both wearing Vans, too. "We started connecting over the fact that we all loved Vans," Vernon added. Vernon visited Notre Dame again at the end of June, and Freeman bought the entire Notre Dame coaching staff a pair of Vans to wear during the elite recruit's visit. Vernon was already likely to com- mit, but the staff wearing the Vans made it clear to him that he wanted Notre Dame. "As soon as I saw that, I knew it was right," Vernon said. "I just knew this is where I have to be. The amount of love and care they have for me as an individ- ual and the effort they made in buying all of those shoes said a lot." ✦ Vans And 'The Dream Team' Led Vernon To Notre Dame The Irish pulled off an upset this summer when they landed Brenan Vernon (center), Rivals' No. 8 overall player in the 2023 cycle, and a shared love of Vans shoes — seen being worn by all pictured above — helped them win the battle. PHOTO COURTESY BRENAN VERNON

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