Notre Dame Always the Dream for Genmark Heath

January 27, 2017

On Thursday afternoon, Notre Dame scored a commitment from 2017 safety Jordan Genmark Heath, a very talented four-star prospect who flipped from Cal. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder may have just received the offer from the Irish a short time ago, but according to his father, Krister Genmark, the commitment to Notre Dame had been building for years.

“It’s been a process,” Genmark told Irish Sports Daily. “If we go back in time, like years, Notre Dame has been Jordan’s dream school since I can’t even remember when. When we came to the U.S., Notre Dame was one of the schools he said he wanted to attend.”

After the official visit, it really felt like it was the right move. We have a very good bond with the coaches and felt that right away. - Krister Genmark
The family took an official visit last weekend and it provided a chance for them to build relationships and feel comfortable with what Notre Dame had to offer. The coaching change at Cal did have an impact, but the people in South Bend made a big difference as well.

“I wouldn’t say it was a decision that was based on the last couple weeks,” stated Genmark. “Of course, everything that went down with Cal impacted the decisions along with getting the offer from Notre Dame.

“After the official visit, it really felt like it was the right move. We have a very good bond with the coaches and felt that right away.”  

When Sonny Dykes got fired from Cal in early January, it certainly came as a surprise to the four-star prospect and his family. However, Genmark had spoken to his son about a coaching change just weeks before.  

“It came as a surprise, but a few weeks before it happened, we had talked about something like that happening,” he explained. “That coaching change at Cal came so late, usually it comes directly after the season or earlier. This was many weeks after, so we were set on Cal and the change came.

“Of course it’s not just the coaches, but it’s the school and everything. Cal has been amazing. It’s just Notre Dame was a better fit for Jordan and that’s where he wants to be. You can’t say anything bad about that.”

With Dykes out at Cal, Notre Dame made its move and it was a move that Genmark-Heath had been waiting on for years.  

“It was his decision and he got it all confirmed when he visited,” said Genmark. “We as parents, we tried to support him through the process and gave him the information to make a grown-up decision. It sounds cliché, but it really isn’t a four-year decision, but a 40-year decision.”   

Few people knew, but Genmark Heath had actually visited Notre Dame with his father prior to last weekend’s official visit. Genmark was working out of Chicago and an opportunity to camp in South Bend came up and the family jumped on it.

“Jordan and I came up there his sophomore year during the summer,” recalled Genmark. “He was still aspiring to be a quarterback, so he went to the quarterback camp. I dropped him off, spent half a day on campus and picked him up three days later.

“In high school, he really didn’t play quarterback. He played quarterback and every position back in Sweden since he was around eight years old. Quarterback was his go-to position, but I always said he should be on defense because that’s where he can hit hard and he loves that part of the game.”  

They understood it was late in the process and we had to try to get an opinion on it in a very short period of time. - Krister Genmark
When the family returned to South Bend last weekend, Genmark was paying close attention to his son’s demeanor. The San Diego native was feeling the pressure of Signing Day and possibly flipping his commitment and Genmark was looking for a genuine reaction from his son to what Notre Dame presented.
“As a parent, you watch him and you look at him,” explained Genmark. “You see how he is reacting to each situation. Is it just like, ‘Wow?’ Part of the visit is to impress and give you an idea that it’s the best place. Notre Dame did a really good job and they gave us a lot of time with the coaches and the academic staff.

“They understood us. They understood it was late in the process and we had to try to get an opinion on it in a very short period of time. Looking at what the coaches did leading up to the official, Coach (Todd) Lyght came out twice the week before. Then the official visit happened and the Tuesday after the visit, Coach Lyght and Coach (Mike) Elko came down to San Diego to visit as well.”

Notre Dame clearly hit all the right notes, as Genmark Heath gave his pledge to the Irish, but it was more than that for his father. Everyone in the family got the same feeling and it was a feeling of comfort.  

“They managed to give us a lot of time with them,” Genmark said. “For me and the way we are as a family, it’s about being around good people. We knew Notre Dame was a great place. We knew it was a great academic school. The alumni network and the football are amazing, but we needed to get to know the people. We wanted to have the feeling that we were turning our son over to good people.”

One large piece of the puzzle was Elko, Notre Dame's new defensive coordinator, since the family didn’t know him and needed to build a relationship over essentially a two-week period.

Elko and Lyght put in the work and made sure family knew them on a personal level before explaining the football side.

“Coach Elko explained the way Jordan would play defense and how he wants his defense to run,” stated Genmark. “Without going into details regarding football, it’s more about utilizing Jordan for the player he is and getting him into a position where he can use his strengths. It’s not like it’s his defense and we’re going to run this no matter what. Jordan is a fit for the position, but at the same time, he’s going to use Jordan in the right way.

“Elko was amazing. He’s been focusing on talking not so much about football, but has focused on getting to know us and for us to know him. When we walked into the room at Notre Dame with him, I said, ‘I don’t know you. I don’t have clue who you are and you’re asking me to turn my son over to you.’”

That trust in Elko and the coaching staff gave a peace of mind to Genmark, but more importantly, it gave his son a future home.

“It was a lot of focus on what kind of man is he and what kind of environment he is trying to create at Notre Dame for the defense. We felt very comfortable with his message.”
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