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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Legacy Opportunities Offer Comfort, But Not Easy Decisions

July 16, 2018

You can take different paths to get to the same destination and that’s especially true when looking at the recruitments of Isaiah Rutherford‍ and Tristan Sinclair‍.

Both are top 2019 California prospects – Rutherford is a cornerback while Sinclair plays linebacker – and both have fathers who enjoyed enormous success at colleges they’re now considering.

But for both kids and their families, the ultimate goal is clear, finding the absolute best fit regardless of where their fathers went.

“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure, but obviously that’s a cool thing to consider,” Tristan Sinclair says of the fact that his father, Andy, was a four-year starter on the offensive line for Stanford under head coach Jack Elway from 1985-1988.

“I would be a legacy at Stanford. But I wouldn’t say it would affect my decision at all.”

Reynard Rutherford (pictured above with his son) rushed for over 2,000 yards during his career as a running back at Cal from 1992-95.

“The Cal connection is a great storyline per se, but in the real world with us, I just want the best fit for him,” Reynard Rutherford says. “That’s the most important thing.

“I never promoted him to go there. I want to let him make his own choice. Cal was something I chose because of the proximity where I grew up. I grew up in the Bay Area, so I was kind of familiar with it and I had a lot of friends who were going there. That was back in ’91, so that was a long time ago. It’s a little different now because I was more trying to stay local with my friends. He has friends everywhere.”

But Rutherford and Sinclair, who are both also seriously considering Notre Dame, came into the recruiting process with different levels of exposure to their fathers’ alma maters.

“We weren’t around it much,” Reynard Rutherford explains. “When I left Cal in ’95, ’96, I didn’t go back for many years. What brought me back was him. Once I separated myself and left the Bay Area, I didn’t go up there too much. I live in Sacramento and we didn’t travel too much going that way.

“I probably took him to one or two Cal games when he was small. Imagine that in a 20-year timeframe, he probably went to two games. Now that he’s gotten older, he’s been to two or three additional games and become more familiar with the campus.”

Things are a bit different with the Sinclairs, who are season-ticket holders with their own tailgate. Still, Andy Sinclair stresses more than anything that it’s about the best fit for his son.

“I enjoyed my career as a student-athlete at Stanford as much as anything I’ve ever done,” he acknowledges. “I enjoyed the university as a student. I loved playing there. I was fortunate. I started 45 games straight and I enjoyed every moment of it. If Tristan decided to go to school there, it’s really not about me.

“If he chose somewhere besides Stanford, obviously we’re going to support him and go to the games and be happy for him. He’s fortunate to have really good options in his life right now.”

Ironically, in addition to Notre Dame, Cal is another option Sinclair is seriously considering.

“At this point, we’re really proud of him,” Andy Sinclair continues. “In our opinion, he’s closed the list down to a few universities and quite frankly, we love them all. Cal has been wonderful. Coach (Justin) Wilcox and his staff I think are dynamic. I think they’re really doing some great things there.”

Sinclair with his parents, Julie & Andy, at Notre Dame

Sinclair and his family took a pair of visits – one unofficial and one official – to Notre Dame over the last few months and were thoroughly impressed with each, especially last month’s official.

Spending time with Brian Kelly, Clark Lea and their wives were among the highlights.

“Notre Dame is genuine people, really good, down to earth people who have a lot to say,” Andy Sinclair recalls. “That was a wonderful visit.”

Tristan Sinclair understands his father’s affection for Stanford, but it’s obvious the Irish have also made a huge impression.

“He likes Notre Dame a lot too,” says Tristan. “Notre Dame is a big school for him. He was actually thinking about going to Notre Dame. That was like his top school at one point too. He’s always said to me that there’s one school; if I don’t go to Stanford, go to Notre Dame. He’s a big supporter of Notre Dame.”

Reynard Rutherford also had a healthy respect for the Irish growing up.

“I’m very familiar with it,” he says. “I can remember every Saturday…they would be the only team on NBC. I remember that as a little kid coming up like, ‘Oh, Notre Dame!’ And watching the movie ‘Rudy.’”

Meanwhile, 2019 Connecticut wide receiver Cornelius Johnson‍ is in a similar, but not-too-similar situation as his mother attended one of his favorite schools, Michigan.

“It’s just another thing to think about, the fact that she went there and would be comfortable with it as an option for me and the fact that she knows that area too,” says Johnson. “She grew up in Michigan. That’s something that makes it that much easier for me when I’m trying to decide.”

Isaiah Rutherford says he’s “really comfortable” with Cal and while some kids in his situation can look to do something different than their fathers, he isn’t afraid to follow his footsteps.

“I can see why kids say that, but I love Cal,” Isaiah says. “They’re family, so it’s not that type of situation. I’d love to go there, there’s no shadow with me following him.”

But in the end, it always comes back to what’s best for the kids.

“My path is much different than my son’s path,” Reynard Rutherford says. “He’ll have children and their path will be different from his path. Everybody has to follow their own path and try to go stronger for the next generation. That’s the goal for us.

“I was the first to go to college in the whole history of my family. Now, all of my kids are going to go to college and their kids are going to be doctors. It’s going to keep blossoming. I don’t want it to be just one track. I want our stem to hit everywhere, so whatever road is the best for him will be the best decision he can make.”

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