Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2024

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2024 89 W hen Notre Dame run- ning back commit Justin Thurman and his par- ents rolled up to the Guglielmino Athletics Complex on their Ju- nior Day visit, their car was im- mediately accosted by three men in green suits, green top hats and rainbow-colored socks. The three "Lucky Charms" patted down the Thurmans' car, pretending to search it before one of them — Notre Dame re- cruiting director Chad Bowden — shouted, "Justin Thurman's in the house!" Bowden and the other two, director of high school scout- ing Dre Brown and recruiting associate Carter Auman, waved the vehicle toward a parking lot adjacent to the building. Thur- man had a smile on his face while walking into 'The Gug,' where his Junior Day began. Each recruit and their families got the same welcome over the next two hours, and most (if not all) seemed to love it. When video of the three recruit- ing staffers in "Lucky Charm" outfits reached social media, though, the reac- tions weren't as kind. "Embarrassing," one said. "Clown show." "So cringe." "I'd decommit on the spot." Internet culture likes to treat every- thing different as bad. To that, I say, lighten up a bit. The holidays have passed, but that's as Grinch-y of an opinion as one can have. Unique things, when done right, can be fun. They certainly were in this in- stance. Most importantly, the target au- dience was a big fan. "That was cool and fun," wide re- ceiver target Elijah Burress told BGI. "It was definitely a good way to start out the day, for sure." Embrace the shenanigans, because Notre Dame is doing just that with its continued investment in Bowden. And with its interest in hiring him, Michigan co-signed on that, too. The shenanigans come with Bowden and the rest of the Notre Dame recruit- ing staff, who bring the energy and en- thusiasm as well as high-profile targets to South Bend. "You're an energy-provider, and we need that," head coach Marcus Freeman told Bowden on Notre Dame's Dec. 20 "Wake Up the Echoes" podcast. "That attracts talent. That attracts young people." "He has outside-the-box ideas," Freeman continued. "He challenges me to think outside the box." Bowden is innovative, and Free- man said on the show that it's the trait that sticks out about him the most. He brings ideas as wild as having Freeman jump out of a plane to impress recruits. Freshman wide receiver Micah Gil- bert said Bowden planned on jumping in an unspecified lake when he and defen- sive end Bryce Young, his high-school teammate, committed to Notre Dame. "We're still going try to get him to do it," Gilbert said. "It's fearlessness. … We all have great relationships with Chad." The skydiving idea was an obvious veto, but having recruiting staffers dress up as secret service agents and doing the same "pat 'em down" shtick to re- cruits' cars on Junior Day? That has al- ways been approved, even going back to the Cincinnati days. That's not to say the staff hasn't feared their antics backfiring, because they do. Every time, then-Notre Dame recruiting analyst Caleb Davis (he followed former Irish offensive coordina- tor Gerad Parker to become the director of player personnel at Troy) said. But then they see examples like then-top cornerback tar- get Christian Gray, now a rising sophomore at Notre Dame, tell reporters that the secret service shtick was his favorite part of the weekend after his Junior Day in 2022. "Somehow, if you believe in it and you do it with a smile on your face, typically the kids rein- force that behavior," Davis said. "So it ends up working out." Auman told a story about a time he was told to pretend his car broke down while driving to a hotel, only for Bowden and Davis to jump out of the nearby bushes and start dancing. With the assurance that the car is fine and the visit underway, that's the im- pression the staff wants to leave. "Greeting them with great energy, kind of showing, 'Hey, we want you here,'" Auman said. "'This place is spe- cial, and this is how we're going to wel- come you.'" That's why anyone pearl-clutching about men in green suits is missing the point. Bowden is an irreplaceable leader of the Notre Dame recruiting operation not in spite of these antics, but because of them. Brown and Auman will con- tinue to create memorable first impres- sions and build connections with these 16-, 17-year-old kids, even though someone sitting behind a computer might call it childish. They might joke about being in the recruits' shoes and turning their car around, but the ones who were there didn't. ✦ Notre Dame recruiting director Chad Bowden (right), shown with direc- tor of high school scouting Dre Brown (left), got into some shenanigans when they broke out their "Lucky Charms" outfits to greet recruits at Notre Dame's recent Junior Day on Jan. 20. PHOTO BY KYLE KELLY OFF THE DOME JACK SOBLE Staff writer Jack Soble has covered Notre Dame athletics for Blue & Gold Illustrated since August 2023. Contact him at Recruiting Staff Embraces Unique Approach

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