Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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2022 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE Now Mickey is enrolled at Notre Dame. He's taking classes. He's going through team workouts. He's getting geared up for spring practices. Every- thing he does is in preparation for the clicking of the chinstrap, the clacking of the cleats and the roar of the crowd. All of those things could have oc- curred somewhere else, though. Life isn't ever easy. It's full of choices. Nilka Mickey made the choice to approach chemotherapy with a head-up, head-on mindset. That made it easier for Jaden to show his own signs of strength. But what happened in late Novem- ber and early December of this past year was a completely different type of chaos than cancer striking the family around the same time as a life-threat- ening pandemic. Everyone knows the particulars by now. Brian Kelly left Notre Dame abruptly and without much warning after a 12-year tenure to take the head coaching job at LSU. He caused a stir in South Bend in the wake of his departure. The Mickeys were caught in it, like a water skier who thought he had every- thing under control but found himself planted face-first in the water in a split- second. "It all happened so fast," Jaden said. Kelly and special teams coach Brian Polian were supposed to meet with the Mickey family on Nov. 28. The news of Kelly's decision leaked on Nov. 27. La- mar Mickey, Jaden's father, called Polian multiple times without an answer. Fi- nally, late on the evening of Nov. 27, Po- lian dialed back. He confirmed the news but stated he'd still like to meet with the Mickeys on his own as scheduled. One hour before the meeting, Polian called again. He canceled. At that point, the future of Fighting Irish football was as much of a mys- tery to the Mickeys as it was to Marcus Freeman — Notre Dame's first-year de- fensive coordinator who had a job with Kelly in Baton Rouge if he wanted it but also an interview with Notre Dame di- rector of athletics for the vacancy left by Kelly. He wanted that more. And he made as much clear to the Mickeys on a phone call sometime on Nov. 28. Lamar Mickey made something clear to Free- man, too. In the 24 hours or so since the Kelly news leaked, Jaden had scheduled visits with Washington and Oregon. He had his own future to look out for, and that of Notre Dame was as murky as a muddy pond after a rainstorm. Lamar Mickey won't ever forget Free- man's last words on that initial call. "If he got the job, he said he'd be call- ing to tell us to cancel the dang visits," Lamar Mickey said. Freeman got the job later that week. He called the Mickeys. "And that's exactly what we did," La- mar Mickey said. In the end, it all worked out for Jaden and his family. Lamar always wanted Jaden to go somewhere academics are valued just as highly as football, if not more so. Check. On the same day the Mickeys arrived home from his official visit at Notre Dame, Tom Mendoza — the namesake of the Notre Dame business school — fol- lowed Jaden on social media. Lamar was ecstatic. Jaden sent him a message, and Mendoza responded by telling Jaden to let him know when he was enrolled so he could introduce him to some profes- sors in a setting outside the classroom. "I share that story more than I share anything else," Lamar Mickey said. "So many people we're surrounded by have a ton of football stories. But nobody has a story like that." The football stories will come. There are high hopes for Mickey in a Notre Dame uniform. It took Freeman less than a month to target him after initially getting hired as defensive coordinator in January 2021. Mickey had an Irish offer by the first week of February. He knows he's valued by Freeman. That's why it was so important that Freeman stayed in South Bend. No matter where Jaden ended up, though, he'd have a No. 1 fan in the form of his mother, Nilka, ever so grateful to see her son clack those cleats and take the field for the first time as a collegiate football player. "I'll be emotional with joy, but tears will come too," Nilka Mickey said. ✦ BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 61 JADEN MICKEY CORNERBACK 5-11½ · 176 CENTENNIAL H.S. EASTVALE, CALIF. RANKINGS STARS NAT. POS. STATE consensus ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 192 22 11 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 147 16 7 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 272 33 20 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 191 18 11 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 212 27 17 STATISTICS • Totaled 43 tackles, 2.0 stops for loss, two inter- ceptions and 10 passes broken up, and forced one safety as a senior. • Posted 31 tackles, one tackle for loss, six inter- ceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and five passes broken up during his sophomore campaign in 2019. NOTABLE • Born on Sept. 18, 2004. • 2021 IE Sports Net Riverside County Player of the Year. • 2021 MaxPreps High School Football All-Amer- ica second-team defense. • 2021 MaxPreps California All-State first-team defense. • 2021 MaxPreps California All-State first-team defense (for shortened spring season). • SBLive's 2021 All-Southern Section first-team defense. • Los Angeles Times' 2021 fall All-Star high school football first-team defense. • 2021 Press Enterprise All-Inland Football Defen- sive Player of the Year. • 2021 Spring Cal-Hi Sports California All-State Team. • 2019 MaxPreps High School Sophomore All- American second-team defense. RECRUITMENT • Committed to Notre Dame on March 14, 2021. • Enrolled at Notre Dame in January 2022. • Had a final four of Cal, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Oregon. • Recruited by cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens and former special teams coordinator Brian Polian. • Took official visits to Notre Dame in June 2021 and December 2021, plus an unofficial visit for the Irish win over USC in October. 2022 PROJECTION • Mickey is a dark horse candidate to break into the cornerback rotation this fall. THEY SAID IT On3 analyst Gerry Hamilton: "Mickey is both a natural in coverage with stay-attached ability down the field and a threat in the return game. He has very flexible hips, quick speed turn and good recovery speed." National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming: "A ball-hawk from the word go, Mickey is an excellent tackler with good range, anticipation and timing. Fearless in coverage, he's not afraid to come up and stick his nose into the action and is as coach- able as they come. "He shows loose hips and the quick-twitch ath- letic ability you love to see in a cornerback."

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