Notre Dame Football Recruiting

A Challenge From Mike Elston Led Gabriel Rubio To A Commitment

June 14, 2019
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Gabriel Rubio‍ is one of the nation’s most coveted defensive linemen in the 2021 class and Notre Dame secured a commitment from the Lutheran (Mo.) star on Friday afternoon. 

This commitment took hard work and patience from Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston, but also from Rubio himself. 

Elston had always planned to offer Rubio, but he had to challenge the four-star prospect off the field, which was somewhat of a bold move as we are talking about one of the top defensive linemen in the country after all. 

But this story starts last summer at the Lineman’s Challenge, which Rubio will take part in on Saturday. 

“Notre Dame first hinted at an offer when I was in South Bend for the Linemen Challenge last year,” Rubio told Irish Sports Daily last weekend. “They said that they were impressed with me and that even though they rarely offer freshmen, they wanted to keep in touch and wanted to get me back on campus. I didn’t know anything about the recruiting process, so I just thought they told everyone that.” 

Rubio took the words to heart and was back on campus for the game against Pitt in October. It was a successful visit and led to Rubio returning to South Bend in January for another unofficial visit, but also to receive a challenge from Elston. 

“I was attending a Junior Day in January when Coach Elston told me that he wanted to offer me but that I needed to improve my GPA,” explained Rubio. “We both agreed that I was fully capable and we agreed once I obtained a higher GPA I could share that I had an offer. It’s funny to hear myself say this, but I was young and needed to learn how to prioritize my days and work. 

“At the end of this year, I had exceeded my goal and was beyond excited to hear Coach Elston say how proud he was of me.” 

Now, the challenge wasn’t because Rubio was a bad student or struggling in the classroom. Elston knew there was more in Rubio and wanted to see if he could bring that out in the Lutheran star. 

Rubio surpassed the GPA they agreed on by several points. 

“I am very excited that I exceeded my GPA goal,” stated Rubio. “I wasn’t a bad student at all. I just didn’t take school work seriously because I didn’t know how important it is in recruiting. It’s one thing being told by my mom and dad, but something entirely different when a coach at a prestigious and historic university explains it to you. 

“I go to a great college prep school where there is very little room for error. If I drop one letter grade in a class, then my GPA drops by 0.25. I had to learn the importance of getting all of my work done and turned in early and I had to learn how to be better at studying for exams.”

The work ethic will pay off in the classroom at Notre Dame, but it also shows Rubio will put in the work on the field to become a complete player. 

Elston and Rubio’s relationship only grew stronger because of the challenge, which will pay off when Rubio arrives on campus in 2021. 

“Coach Elston and I have created a great relationship,” explained Rubio. “From day one he has given me feedback on what I was doing right on wrong on the field, but when he challenged me to do better in the classroom, I accepted it like I was playing for him already. 

“He was sharing what I needed to do to be successful and I bought in that what he was saying was going to make me better. That’s the relationship that I’ve been looking for. We have trust in each other and I think that will take us to the top.” 

Rubio also knows it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows at Notre Dame. He’s well-aware Elston will be tough on him to push him to be the best player he can be and that’s exactly why Rubio wanted to play for Elston.

“All coaches love the game and love getting their players to succeed,” Rubio said. “What sets Coach Elston apart is his genuineness and how he builds players up. When he’s coaching me, I feel like I can take on the world. 

“He gives attaboys but also calls you out when the rep isn’t perfect or corrects you when you’re doing something wrong. I’m not saying that other coaches don’t do it, but I’m saying that I feel that I respond best to him. His rah-rah makes me want to rip through walls.”

I fully believe Notre Dame fans will be more than happy with Rubio if he’s ripping through offensive lines in a few years, but he also had a message for the Notre Dame fans. 

“Id like to remind everyone that recruits are more than just a name with a star rating next to it,” said Rubio. “We are kids who are playing a game that we love and trying to figure out where the best place for us to grow. 

“I’m as nervous as the next guy. Notre Dame has a long tradition of excellence. I’m blessed to be able to call myself Irish and will work my tail off to earn everyone’s trust and respect.”

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