National Signing Day for the Class of 2023 will be one Notre Dame fans remember for a long time for the wrong reason.
But the Irish’s 2023 recruiting class is likely to be one Irish fans remember even longer for the right reasons.
We understand the current state of national recruiting has some feeling discouraged and for good reason. Fans find themselves wondering why they should invest so much time learning about prospects and following them for a year-plus only to see them bail to the highest bidder at the very end.
That’s understandable and that may very well become the standard for most recruits in the future, but that’s not the case right now.
And acting like it does a tremendous disservice to the 24 prospects the Irish did sign.
This group is not made up of a bunch of overachieving underdogs.
The class the Irish signed on Wednesday is stacked with elite prospects and difference-makers.
It’s also heavy on players who turned down upfront money because they believe in themselves and Notre Dame.
And in addition to signing a bunch of players who will upgrade the product on the field, the Irish added a bunch of kids and families who will build on the current culture within the program.
Let’s take a look.
STARS WITH NO NEED FOR THE SPOTLIGHT: Braylon James is probably charismatic enough to be a television star…like today.
But the 2023 wide receiver signee from Texas doesn’t crave attention or even seem to want it.
Never one for the media spotlight, our first interactions with James were via text.
He provided answers so in-depth and well-thought-out that it made us wonder if he’d had some help from an adult in crafting them. But when we spoke to James just prior to his commitment to the Irish back in April, we knew we needed to find a way to convey just how impressive a young man Notre Dame was getting.
So, we did something we rarely do and published the audio of our interview with him so ISD subscribers could hear it for themselves.
Check that audio out now if you missed it then.
Irish Sports Daily
How about quarterback Kenny Minchey?
In the day and age of high school quarterbacks being placed on pedestals, the Tennessee native seems to actively work towards avoiding such treatment. When he picked up an offer from Notre Dame over the summer, he simply sent out a tweet acknowledging the offer and even that didn’t come until several days later.
At the time, he was committed to Pitt and clearly didn’t want to disrespect the Panthers while also showing he was grateful to the Irish coaching staff.
It’s clear now Minchey was seriously considering the Irish all along, but he didn’t do any interviews expressing that.
“He doesn’t like to really go off his routine as far as the way he goes about his day, his preparation,” his personal quarterback coach Riley Howard says. “All of the extra stuff as far as interviews and the hype and all of that stuff, he’s an ‘I’m going to show you, not tell you’ type of guy.”
Imagine the NIL bidding war Minchey could have created had he let it be known he wasn’t completely locked in with his commitment to the Panthers. He may not have publicized them, but we’re told there were several other programs, including top SEC ones, very interested in Minchey and they would have gladly thrown their hats in for such a competition.
“We could have created a bidding war,” Howard says. “There were a tremendous amount of NIL offers, but that wasn’t important to him. What’s important to him is being in a good spot, where it’s a good fit, where he can excel and where he feels comfortable with the coach as well.”
Instead, Minchey kept things pretty quiet, sending out a simple tweet announcing his decommitment from Pitt days before taking his official to Notre Dame. Afterwards, he did a few post-visit interviews before announcing his commitment to the Irish via tweet a week later and a drama-free Signing Day event on Wednesday.
And, like James, this isn’t a shy kid who is afraid of the spotlight by any means. In talking to him, it’s obvious why the Irish see Minchey as a future leader of their program. He’s a well-spoken, smart and confident young man.
But again, he doesn’t need the attention.
Cornerback signee Christian Gray has been pegged as an elite recruit for virtually his entire high school experience. The only hint you’d get from him about that is the smile that never seems to leave his face.
If you ever start to believe recruits are nothing but spoiled and ungrateful brats, look up Christian Gray.
NAVIGATING A TOUGH SITUATION WITH RESPECT: Christopher Terek found himself in a similar position as Minchey, having committed to a school earlier in the process before getting an opportunity at Notre Dame that was too great to ignore.
We repeatedly reported how the 2023 Illinois offensive lineman was torn between the Irish and Wisconsin and we tried to stress that he seemed almost tortured by it all.
Multiple sources believed Terek was leaning towards Notre Dame, but was having trouble bringing himself to go back on his word. Terek would eventually confirm this himself.
Don’t forget, we’re talking about a Wisconsin program that had fired its coach on Oct. 2nd. Terek had all the excuses he would have needed to make an easy break, but the idea of not fulfilling his commitment was one that gnawed at him to the point where some believed he could sacrifice what he believed was best for himself.
Terek’s strongest tie to the Badgers was offensive line coach Bob Bostad. Wisconsin wasn’t going to have a real shot at Terek without Bostad being retained by new head coach Luke Fickell, but in reality, the Irish had been the favorites for a while.
Still, Terek handled the situation with extreme respect, putting others before himself.
WHO’S RAISING THESE KIDS ANYWAY?: Want to get an idea of the type of people who are raising the future of the Irish? Take a scroll through April Pendleton’s Twitter account @onerunnermom
You’ll find a tight-knit family whose values are clear.
Here’s a sampling
OMG!!! HE WAS CHEWING GUM!!!: Cooper Flanagan was barely a junior in high school when he committed to the Irish. A week after announcing his commitment, the 2023 California tight end joined us for a video interview.
Flanagan did a great job explaining why he chose the Irish, his thoughts on the coaching staff and how he thought Notre Dame was similar to his current high school, the famous De La Salle.
But the only thing on his mother Christina’s mind afterward was the fact that he had a piece of chewing gum in his mouth throughout the process.
Yes, elite football recruits do have people close to them keeping them humble and grounded while teaching them that they always need to be aware of how they’re presenting themselves.
WHERE’S THE RESPECT?: When Virginia athlete Brandyn Hillman landed on the Notre Dame board, we published a story on his motherShawn, her career in the military and the values she’s instilled in her son.
At the time, Brandyn had trouble putting the amount of respect he has for his mother into words. No problem, he repeatedly showed it as he navigated the process, ultimately choosing to make his announcement on her birthday so he could share the day with her.
Or how about Jason Love?
The father of running back signee Jeremiah Love was firm in slapping down a false rumor, but when the denial was printed, he was concerned about how it could be interpreted. He didn’t want there to be any ambiguity about the respect the family has for Michigan assistant coach Steve Clinkscale, the university or the staff. They all were excellent and extremely professional doing the recruitment process, according to Love.
On its face, the post wasn’t disrespectful, but Love and his father didn’t even want the chance of it being misinterpreted.
Love was never committed to Michigan. They didn’t do anything other than correct a false story.
But Mr. Love did feel he owed Clinkscale respect and wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to put that on display for his son.
What about Don Shuler?
The father of safety signee Adon Shuler reached out for advice after finding himself in a relatively minor situation, regarding media and fan attention. He wanted to do everything in his power to be sure they didn’t make any moves that would give off the wrong impression or rub anybody the wrong way.
Simply being cognizant of potential ramifications from a very small matter sheds light on how Shuler has been raised.
IT’S NO ACCIDENT: Notre Dame has always been self-selected in a sense and the Irish aren’t afraid to say the place isn’t for everybody.
But the current staff has made it a point to bring in not just the right kids, but the right families.
“They bring in people who come from good stock,” Don Shuler says. “That’s how Freeman groomed it to be a family atmosphere, which was great.
“The staff has everybody so at ease, so it’s easy to communicate with everybody no matter what their background is.”
That atmosphere allows for true relationships to form.
The players obviously have their own group text thread and so do the moms, which Shuler’s wife was encouraged to start by Chad Bowden.
“That was nice,” Shuler said.
Once those relationships start to build, it only reinforces what Notre Dame is selling.
“If there weren’t like-minded people, it definitely wouldn’t work,” Shuler said.
It goes beyond being friendly or sharing meals together, all the way to making plans to share AirBnBs together in South Bend.
“It’s crazy. It’s dope.”
THE MOMENT NOTRE DAME ALMOST LOST THE GOVERNOR’S FATHER: The Bowen household has a long-standing tradition on Friday mornings involving Archie Eversole. Jeremy Bowen, the father of 2023 Notre Dame signee Drake Bowen, will play ‘We Ready’ by Eversole every morning during breakfast to set a tone for game day. It often involves his other kids getting involved to try to wake up Drayk a little quicker – and yes, even the family dog has made a few appearances.
It’s become one of those family traditions everyone expects and those who are friends with the Bowens as the video is posted every week on Facebook.
Clemson was one of Bowen’s final visits before his commitment last November and during pregame, the Tigers interlock arms across the width of the field and walk from midfield to the end zone with ‘We Ready’ playing in the background.
The eldest Bowen was recording it and didn’t expect the song to be played and when he realized what happened, a gasp of sheer shock came out of his mouth that indicated he couldn’t believe what was happening.
In fact, the visit the rest of the weekend was so good for Bowen, the elder Bowen called his wife and ex-wife to tell them they were losing their boy to Clemson.
And yes, we at ISD have a video of the legendary gasp and a game day video in the Bowen household to share.