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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Coach Convinced 2023 QB Nico Iamaleava Would Be "Great Fit" For Notre Dame

January 8, 2021

Kevin Pearson knows what it looks like.

The current head coach at Warren High School in Downey, Calif., has been around it enough to recognize it when he sees it.

Pearson was convinced he was seeing it when he first saw Nicholaus Iamaleava‍ throwing at a camp, but he wanted to see if the 2023 quarterback would still show it in full pads against live ammunition.

That confirmation would have to wait and when it came, it would be brief, but convincing.

After the family reached out to Pearson about Iamaleava possibly transferring to Warren from Long Beach Poly for the 2020-21 academic year, the coach found himself at a camp where the 6-foot-6, 195-pound youngster was working out, so he kept an eye on him.

“The first thing that jumps out is his arm talent,” the coach says. “His release is exceptionally quick.

“His arm talent is off the charts.”

Pearson is familiar with those charts after coaching former five-star and current Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at his previous stop, Cathedral High School in Los Angeles. He also coached former four-star and eventual LSU quarterback Hayden Rettig at Cathedral.

Pearson has also seen guys like Trevor Lawrence, JT Daniels, Matt Corrall and D.J. Uiagalelei, who is Iamaleava’s cousin, up close throughout his time working top regional camps and U.S. Army All-American Bowls.

“Nico’s arm talent is as good as any 15-year-old I’ve ever seen and just about any kid I’ve ever seen,” Pearson says. “The question to me was, conceptually can he understand what we’re doing? Can he make decisions and process quickly?

“You see kids who can wow you throwing the ball, but I never saw him play in the game with bullets flying.”

When Iamaleava did settle on transferring to Warren, Pearson knew he’d get the chance to see it, but with COVID-19 pushing back the high school season in California, that chance was delayed.

After transferring in June, Iamaleava was able to participate in five weeks of practice at Warren, but they weren’t even allowed to use a ball before being shut down. They were able to reopen before getting shut down again, although they did get three weeks in with a ball.

“That’s when I saw his arm talent was just different,” says Pearson. “If there was a spring ball, he would have 20, 25 offers, seriously.”

Pearson thinks back to his time with Rettig, who picked up offers at a dizzying pace during one spring session while in high school.

“Nico has the same arm talent, it’s actually better and his release is quick,” says Pearson. “He’s a really good athlete. He’s a tough kid.”

Eventually, California would again delay the start of its season and Pearson made the decision to allow his players to participate in some club football competitions in Arizona if they felt comfortable doing so.

Iamaleava and many of his Warren teammates would end up playing two games last month as part of a club team. They received their pads on Tuesday, had a scrimmage the next day, then took the next four days off four Christmas before playing again the following Monday.

Everything Pearson hoped would translate onto the field did.

Iamaleava made virtually every proper read and when he didn’t, he knew it before being told – jogging off the field after one of few such instance saying, “That’s my bad, I didn’t read the backside safety.”

Any questions about the lanky youngster’s athletic ability had already been answered.

“He’s the #1-ranked 15-year-old volleyball player on the #1-ranked team in the country,” says Pearson. “He’s got a ton of offers for volleyball because he played varsity volleyball at Long Beach Poly this past year, but he didn’t play varsity football. He doesn’t have varsity film.”

And Pearson has no doubt about his toughness after seeing him take a few solid licks only to immediately bounce up.

So, within the last couple weeks, Pearson began following up with college coaches across the country and the results have come back quickly.

Just since the calendar flipped to 2021, Michigan State, Florida State, UCLA, Utah and Arizona State have come through with scholarship offers and more will follow to go with offers he already had from schools like BYU, Hawaii and Washington State.

Notre Dame is still in the very early stages of its research on Iamaleava, but Pearson has had players recruited by the Irish before and sees a potential fit.

“He’s a great kid, he’s so humble,” says Pearson. “He comes from a great family who values education and faith.

“That’s why I think he’d be great for Notre Dame. I know the type of kids Notre Dame recruits. He would be so good for Notre Dame.”

When he brought the idea of Notre Dame up to Iamaleava’s family, the response was one of true excitement.

 “When I talked to the Dad about Notre Dame, he goes, ‘Heck yeah! We would love Notre Dame,’” the coach says.

Pearson is convinced Iamaleava will be one of the top-rated quarterbacks in his class.

“Without question, he’s going to be in the Top 3 in his class if not that Top 1. I can say that really confidently. This kid is special.”

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