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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Top Five Recruiters of the Brian Kelly Era

April 14, 2020

Notre Dame is known worldwide for influential people and while it might not be worldwide, the Fighting Irish have had several recruits become faces of their respective classes. 

Who have been the top recruiters for Notre Dame? We have five that immediately stick out. 


2021 Avon (Ind.) offensive lineman Blake Fisher‍ has quickly become the face of this cycle's class with his aggressive recruiting. The 6-foot-6, 335-pounder committed in June and hit the ground running contacting prospects from all over the country. 

In fact, it’s almost rare to speak with a prospect without them speaking to Fisher first. 

Fisher’s outgoing personality allows him to connect and relate to just about everyone, including parents. The four-star prospect does a lot of his work via FaceTime, but also on the sticks as he’s a big gamer. However, Fisher has also been able to develop relationships much deeper than football with his peers and that makes him different than most prospects. 

Now, Fisher may have cemented his spot at No. 1 on this list already, but Notre Dame fans have three names circled on the offensive side of the ball that could make him into a legend. If the Irish can land running back Will Shipley‍, receiver Donte Thornton Jr.‍ and offensive lineman Rocco Spindler‍, the legend of Blake Fisher might reach untouchable heights. 

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The Mayor



If anyone could rival Fisher’s aggressiveness on the recruiting trail, it would be Cathedral (Ind.) running back Markese Stepp. The four-star prospect committed early and went to work on building the 2018 recruiting class. 

Stepp was almost always at Notre Dame any time a big name prospect was in town and made sure to develop deep relationships. 

Offense or defense, it didn’t matter, as Stepp formed extremely close bonds with the Ademilola twins, Braden Lenzy, Phil Jurkovec, Houston Griffith, Ja’mion Franklin, Kevin Austin Jr. and Ovie Oghoufo. 

Stepp was just about as persistent as one can get with preaching Notre Dame’s message and making each prospect feel at home, including his fellow running backs. Now, Stepp didn’t end up signing with Notre Dame, which makes this story even weirder, but there is still great mutual respect between the two sides as the majority of Notre Dame’s team and personnel staff made sure to dap him up following the USC game in October. 

Rick Kimball/ISD
Markese Stepp 



Brian Kelly's 2013 recruiting class finished No. 5 in the country and two prospects played significant roles. 

James Onwualu, a receiver at the time, committed early and went to work bringing in commit after commit. The Minnesota native was in South Bend every chance he got and like the two players above, he formed relationships. 

Onwualu seemed to have kids gravitate to him easier than maybe even Fisher and Stepp. That's just the kind of kid Onwualu was and it paid off as the Irish landed the best class in the Kelly era. 

Jaylon Smith, Max Redfield, Greg Bryant, Hunter Bivin and Tarean Folston headlined the class, but it was also filled with Isaac Rochell, Steve Elmer, John Montelus, Cole Luke, Malik Zaire, Mike McGlinchey, Colin McGovern, Torii Hunter Jr., Doug Randolph, Mike Heuerman, Durham Smythe, Will Fuller and Devin Butler, who were all four-star prospects. 

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James Onwualu 


4. 2013 TE Mike Heuerman 

The second name from the 2013 class was Naples (Fla.) tight end Mike Heuerman. Sitting here writing this, I realized I can’t put most of the stories Heuerman has told me over the years and he has some great ones. 

In the end, Heuerman chose Notre Dame over LSU, Miami and Ohio State, where his big brother, Mike, played college ball. 

Heuerman’s two biggest targets didn’t come to Notre Dame as linebacker Alex Anzalone went to and cornerback Mackensie Alexander went to Clemson. However, Anzalone and Heuerman were almost always together on trips, including to Ohio State where they both became viral for a not so good recruiting story. Heuerman also made a trip deep into Florida to watch Alexander play. 

The four-star prospect was also able to relate to just about anyone, which allowed him to connect with several of Notre Dame recruits and he would have been a fan favorite if football worked out. He was the perfect running mate for James Onwualu and the two were naturally roommates when they arrived at Notre Dame. 

If you have five minutes, take a look at what Heuerman has been doing as of late: Sidelined by Addiction: A former Notre Dame football player's road to recovery

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Mike Heuerman


5. 2020 QB Drew Pyne

Quarterback Drew Pyne always wanted to play for Notre Dame, so while his commitment came as no shock, the drive to bring in top talent came as little surprise as well. 

Similar to the other names on this list, Pyne was able to cultivate relationships with top prospects like Chris Tyree, Michael Mayer, Jordan Johnson, Tosh Baker, Xavier Watts and Kevin Bauman to sway them to South Bend. 

Pyne also had a part in receiver Jay Brunelle's recruitment and drive to earn an offer from the Irish. The 2020 signal-caller connected with Tyree at various camps and played a part of the four-star prospect being comfortable with life at Notre Dame. 

Heck, Pyne has developed relationships with 2021 prospects when they’ve made it to campus and continued to grow them despite being a Notre Dame student-athlete. 2021 running back Will Shipley comes to mind here. 

Leadership means a lot and Pyne took hold of the 2020 class early.

Rick Kimball/ISD
Drew Pyne and Jordan Johnson 


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