Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2023

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

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32 DECEMBER 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MIKE SINGER Notre Dame added a commitment in its 2025 class with Phoenix Brophy College Preparatory cornerback Cree Thomas announcing his pledge to the Fighting Irish Nov. 20. The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder earned an offer from Notre Dame in the spring and visited campus four times before his public decision, including two game- day visits in October. He picked Notre Dame over Arizona, Arizona State, Or- egon and Wisconsin. "One of the biggest things was that I can continue to practice my faith; it's a faith-based school," Thomas said regarding his choice of Notre Dame. "While talking to God, I felt it was the best decision for me. Another thing is the atmosphere; it's amazing. There's a family culture where everyone loves each other, and the coaches showed so much love throughout my recruiting process. "Why not Notre Dame? Every time I went there, the commits were always super cool, and it came down to where I felt most wanted. It's the best decision for my family and me." Thomas gives Notre Dame nine ver- bals in the 2025 recruiting cycle and is the first defensive back pledge in the class. Six of the nine commits have pledged to the Irish since September. On3 ranks Thomas as the No. 3 player from Arizona and the No. 43 cornerback in the country. While it wasn't until Nov. 20 that Thomas announced his decision, he was privately committed to Notre Dame for about a month before that. Thomas fa- vored Notre Dame for quite some time, and his visit to see the Irish dismantle USC made him seriously ponder his pledge. Thomas visited Notre Dame at the end of October for the Pittsburgh game, but at that point he had already in- formed the staff of his commitment de- cision and wanted to wait until Nov. 20, the day that his late grandfather passed away in a previous year. "After visiting for the USC game, I was pretty sure it was what I wanted to do," Thomas explained. "I wanted to pray about it and talk with my family. My dad and I made a list of the pros and cons of my top options at the time, and Notre Dame knocked it out of the park. "It was ahead on all aspects. I knew I had to pull the trigger, so I called the coaches and made it official." Thomas comes from the same high school that produced Irish sopho- more cornerback Benjamin Morrison, who was a senior at Brophy Prep when Thomas was a freshman. Morrison has taken a mentorship role for Thomas, an- swering all the questions that Thomas has had about the recruiting process. "The connection with Ben — that was another huge reason," Thomas said about picking Notre Dame. "It's start- ing the Brophy pipeline to Notre Dame. I told Ben that I was committing, and he was super hyped." Next season will most likely be Mor- rison's last in a Notre Dame uniform because he has the potential to come off the board early in the 2025 NFL Draft, which would mean that Morrison and Thomas won't get to play together in South Bend. "I probably still would've ended up at Notre Dame even if Ben wasn't there with how amazing the school is," Thomas noted. "But it was cool to see that they developed a kid from my high school. It makes me know that if I work as hard as him, then I can do what he did." The Notre Dame staff was crucial in Thomas' decision to pick the Fighting Irish. "They showed so much love," he said. "I really appreciate that. They'd talk to me about more than football; they'll ask about my life. That meant a lot to me in my process. I wanted to pick a school with a coaching staff that wanted me as a person and not just a football player, and Coach [Mike] Mickens and Coach [Marcus] Freeman did just that. "Coach [Chad] Bowden always has high energy, and it's fun talking to him. He hit me up a lot and was huge in my recruitment. Coach [Al] Golden as well — he was always texting me and talking about my high school games." There is more than a year until Thomas will sign with a school and much could potentially change in his recruitment, but he has no intentions of being anything but loyal to Notre Dame. "I haven't even thought about it, but I doubt I'll take other visits," he said. "I'm confident that Notre Dame is home." Thomas was named to the 2023 Ari- zona 6A Central All-Region first-team defense for his efforts as a junior. He had recorded 37 tackles, 5 interceptions and 4 passes broken up heading into Thanksgiving weekend. ✦ Arizona Corner Follows In Benjamin Morrison's Footsteps To Notre Dame COMMITMENT PROFILE CREE THOMAS Thomas is the No. 3 player from Arizona and the nation's No. 43 cornerback according to On3. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER FILM ANALYSIS "Cree Thomas is a quick thinker who seems to figure out what's going to happen before it actually does. He has great range, terrific makeup speed, loose hips and the confidence needed to play corner at the next level. "He certainly has the fluid hips to turn and run with the swiftest of receivers. He shows a smooth backpedal and can be a physical 170-pounder with excellent ball skills." — Prep Football Report analyst Tom Lemming

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