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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Chris Slade Sees Notre Dame As Great Fit For 2021 WR Jayden Thomas

October 5, 2020

Chris Slade figured it was only a matter of time before he sent a player from Pace Academy to Notre Dame on a football scholarship.

The former NFL linebacker has seen the Irish recruit multiple prospects from his roster since he took over as head coach eight years ago, including offensive linemen Jamaree Salyer and Andrew Thomas.

When 2021 wide receiver Jayden Thomas‍ began receiving serious interest from Notre Dame, Slade thought he could be the one who ended up in South Bend.

On Friday, Thomas announced he was doing just that, when he publicly declared his commitment to the Irish.

“Like the other two guys from Pace, Jamaree and Andrew, he’s a quality young man, humble, down to earth,” Slade said of Thomas. “He just works extremely hard, very coachable, smart, definitely a team guy first. I’ll put him at DB if I need to, at safety, I can play him at d-end in some situations. He can punt. He never complains, never gripes.

“He’s obviously a phenomenal athlete, big-time baseball prospect as well, explosive, deceptively fast, long-strider. He can really make a big difference. He’s definitely a program-changer.”

Slade said Thomas is the kind of player who makes a program better beyond his on-field production.

“When your best player allows you to coach him, it makes your job so much easier,” said Slade. “The other guys follow suit, they fall in line because they see the best player get coached and he lets them coach him. That makes a big difference.

“It sets an example; the superstar doesn’t get any special privileges and he doesn’t expect anything. He expects to be coached and coached hard and coached to get better. It makes my job easier because if the other guys see him leading by example then they’ll be more apt to want to do it and be successful.”

Not surprisingly, Slade expects Thomas to make a relatively smooth transition to Notre Dame.

“Obviously you can’t really compare high school to college, but I think the small environment, the one-on-one attention, you can’t hide anywhere, all of the athletes and regular students walk through the same doors,” he said. “There are no football classes. Like at Pace, everybody takes the same classes. There’s no special treatment because you’re an athlete.”

Pace Academy has had multiple students attend Notre Dame, including former Irish football walk-on Mick Assaf.

“He will be used to the curriculum. He’ll be used to working hard, doing homework, writing papers, staying up late. It won’t be anything new to him. I think that’s why some of our kids have been able to transition very well into college, in particular Notre Dame.”

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