Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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58 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2022 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY PATRICK ENGEL In hindsight, Dom Merriweather feels he should have sensed something was awry. Merriweather can recall specific mo- ments from the fateful in-home recruit- ing visit then-Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, then-wide receivers coach Del Alexander and offensive coordina- tor Tommy Rees paid to the family home in Vancouver, Wash., on Nov. 29 that should have set off internal alarms on the spot. The thing is, though, the Merriweath- ers had never hosted a college foot- ball coach in their home before. How could they really have sensed turmoil was afoot in real time? Nobody had any idea how many phone calls and texts are normal for a college coach to receive in a three-hour span or how many direc- tions the head coach of Notre Dame is usually pulled on the Monday after the regular season. But, still. Something didn't pass the smell test, and it wasn't the barbecue Merriweather was cooking for dinner. "It didn't feel that normal while he was here," said Dom Merriweather, the father of Notre Dame wide receiver signee To- bias Merriweather. "He was distracted, took a couple phone calls outside. "He's the head coach, and head coaches are busy. I didn't really judge it like, 'Why aren't you being attentive to my son?' I was too busy cooking and hosting." Even if Dom Merriweather was con- vinced Kelly was acting abnormally, he could never have possibly guessed why. It turns out, the Merriweathers had the closest possible seat to the final hours of the Kelly era at Notre Dame. They had zero reason to remotely consider the possibility until moments after the con- tingent of coaches left. That's when To- bias scrolled through his phone and saw reports of Kelly's impending departure. "He was like, 'Dad, look at this,'" Dom said. "I told him to send a text to Coach Alexander because they're in the car together. Coach Alexander responded back, and he said, 'Coach Kelly said that's bull----.'" All right then, Tobias thought. "I was like, 'Whatever,'" he said. "I went and worked out, came back and it was all over my phone, all over social media. It was not a great feeling, not a great moment, but we worked through it and we're still there." Despite all the turmoil, Tobias felt comfortable with Notre Dame's direc- tion under Marcus Freeman and signed with the Irish in December. He origi- nally committed in August 2021. He's the only receiver in the class because of 11th-hour defections by four-star C.J. Williams (signed with USC) and three-star Amorion Walker (flipped to Michigan). A visit from Freeman and Rees ex- actly one week after Kelly's exit helped quell the uncertainty and reaffirm Mer- riweather's plans. Freeman held his in- troductory press conference early in the afternoon on Dec. 6, hopped in an SUV and drove to South Bend International Airport for a week of recruiting. He ended the first night at the Merriweath- ers' house following a stop in Wiscon- Tobias Merriweather Felt Pulled To Notre Dame Despite Coaching Change Merriweather's commitment to the Fighting Irish withstood a chaotic front-row seat to former head coach Brian Kelly's departure in late November, when the news started to break during an in-home visit with him. PHOTO BY MIKE SINGER

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