Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

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

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32 AUGUST 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MIKE SINGER Fireworks went off July 4 when St. Louis De Smet class of 2023 cornerback Chris- tian Gray announced his commitment to Notre Dame over finalists LSU, Ohio State and USC. He was relieved after he informed the nation of his decision. "It feels great," Gray said of finally being on the Irish commitment list. "There's a lot of stress gone. It is awe- some. I'm committed to a great school and family environment." Gray officially visited LSU June 3 fol- lowed by Notre Dame the next weekend. He was going to round out the month with trips to USC and Ohio State ahead of his July 4 decision date, but the 6-0 1 ⁄2, 175-pounder canceled those trips. He knew it would be Notre Dame for him. "God told me that this is where he wanted me to be and where I need to go," Gray said. Gray first spoke with Notre Dame di- rector of recruiting Chad Bowden about his decision while he was on campus. "I told him that I was ready to com- mit," Gray recalled. "He asked me if I was sure, or if it was just a feeling based on my official. I told him, 'No. I prayed about it, and God came back and said it was the place for me.'" Gray also spoke with Irish head coach Marcus Freeman about his big news as well. "He was very hyped," the four-star recruit added. "It was great experience that day." Of Notre Dame's 20 commitments, a dozen plan to enroll early in January, including Gray. "I'm taking a lot of summer classes so I can get out to college early," he said. "I'll be there in January. I'm very excited about it. I know it's going to be a lot of hard work." Listed as the No. 10 cornerback and No. 79 overall prospect in America by On3, Gray is a big-time get for the Fighting Irish and the type of player the Irish don't land often. The Irish signing top-100 players is normal; they cur- rently have six com- mitted in the 2023 c l a s s. B u t wh a t's not typical for Notre Dame is landing a cornerback prospect of Gray's caliber. Notre Dame hasn't signed a cornerback ranked as high as Gray since Gary Gray [no relation] back in the 2007 class. "It's crazy for me when I think about it," Gray said. "My mom told me about that, and I was like, what? I had no idea I made history. That's crazy." Gray's recruitment was long viewed as a battle between Notre Dame and Ohio State, but LSU entered his recruitment in January and made its mark. Tigers' head coach Brian Kelly hired Robert Steeples as his cornerbacks coach. Steeples was Gray's high school coach from 2019-20. Interestingly enough, Kelly inter- viewed Steeples two years ago for Notre Dame's vacant cornerbacks position, a job that went to Mike Mickens. And now, Mickens will coach Gray in South Bend. Calling Steeples about the decision to pick the Irish over the Tigers was a tough call for Gray to make. "He means a lot to me. He's a father figure in my life," Gray said. "He's been a great mentor in my life. But he understood the path I had to take. He told me to be great and to do what I've learned from him. He said not to lose my focus and keep doing the things that got me to this level." G ray i s fo rg i n g ahead with his Notre Dame commitment and signed off from his interview with Blue & Gold Illus- trated with two words. "Go Irish!" Per STL Today, Gray posted 34 tack- les, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 intercep- tions in 10 games last season. He also added a 30-yard rushing touchdown and three kickoff return scores, helping lead De Smet to an 8-3 record. Gray was a first-team 2021 All-Metro Catholic Conference performer. Gray recorded blazing 40-yard dash times of 4.40 and 4.42 at Ohio State's football camp during June of 2021. He also ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at Notre Dame's camp that month. ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE CHRISTIAN GRAY Notre Dame Earns Huge Cornerback Commitment, Beating Out LSU FILM ANALYSIS "I've watched Christian develop since his freshman year, and there's no doubt he's one of the top cover corners in the Midland region. You have to like his length, how he moves in the open field and rarely gets caught flat- footed showing good anticipation. "Gray plays more physical than his size would indicate, showing remarkable footwork and a smooth backpedal. He's also good in run support and dominates his competition." — Prep Football Report recruiting analyst Tom Lemming "A couple of the things about Notre Dame that are different from other colleges is that it has the most energy and what it can do for you after football is over. The faith aspect is important to me too." GRAY Gray — the No. 10 cornerback and No. 79 overall prospect in America per On3 — posted 34 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions in 10 games for St. Louis De Smet last season. PHOTO COURTESY ON3.COM

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