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Football Recruiting: Highly-touted recruit Clausen commits to Irish

Ken Fowler | Monday, April 24, 2006

SOUTH BEND – For Jimmy Clausen, it was all about the coach.

The Westlake Village, Calif., quarterback said Saturday he will attend Notre Dame thanks to the straightforward recruiting of Irish coach Charlie Weis.

“It all comes down to Coach Weis,” Clausen said. “Throughout the recruiting process, he has been straightforward with me. I just think this is a great situation, and every high school quarterback would want to play under Coach Weis.”

In front of more than 250 people during a news conference in front of the Heisman Gallery at the College Football Hall of Fame, the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback – and arguably the most highly touted quarterback recruit since Ron Powlus – announced he will enter Notre Dame as an early-enrollee next spring.

“I think you all know why I’m here today,” Clausen said. “I’m very excited and proud to say that in January I’ll be attending the University of Notre Dame.”

Clausen’s announcement was followed by 27 seconds of thunderous applause from the fans in attendance. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound protégé of renowned quarterbacks coach Steve Clarkson has thrown 88 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions while leading his Oaks Christian High School team to a 27-0 record as a starter.

“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to Coach Weis for having the confidence in me throughout the recruiting process,” Clausen said. “I look forward to this afternoon to meet my future teammates and help bring us national championships.”

Clausen said he decided last week that he would attend Notre Dame and informed Weis after the team’s practice Friday.

Clausen said he will be an active recruiter for Notre Dame and already has phone numbers for many of the top prospects. During the press conference, he pointed out one person he would recruit that he’s already familiar with – high school teammate Marc Tyler, a 6-foot, 215-pound running back.

Tyler is widely considered one of the top three tailbacks in the country for his class.

“I’ve seen [Clausen’s interest in Notre Dame] boom since the first time he brought me out here for [Notre Dame’s] junior day,” Tyler said after the press conference. “I was like, ‘What school are you going to recruit me to?’ But he wouldn’t say. After that, I knew he liked Notre Dame a lot.”

Clausen’s father, Jim, said he was pleased with Jimmy’s decision.

“It’s a dream come true,” Jim Clausen said. “I’m overwhelmed by all this. We’re tremendously honored.”

Jim Clausen said he is most proud of the effort his son has put into his football career.

“I don’t know if [Jimmy’s] good enough to play football at Notre Dame or not, but I know he’s a young man that has worked extremely hard to get to this point,” he said.

Jimmy Clausen’s brother, Casey Clausen, said he wanted to play at Notre Dame but went to Tennessee because Irish coach Bob Davie wanted an option quarterback at the time instead of a drop-back passer. Casey Clausen started four years for the Volunteers from 2000-03.

“I think once Coach Weis came here and did what he did last year, with Coach Willingham’s players basically, it kind of opened up [Jimmy’s] eyes a little bit,” he said. “He’s one of a kind – and I’m his oldest brother, so I’m his biggest critic. But this a kid who’s kind of in a league of his own.”

Clausen’s announcement gives Notre Dame three verbal commitments for his recruiting class. Kerry Neal, a defensive end from Bunn, N.C. and linebacker Aaron Nagel of Lemont, Ill. have already said they intend to play for Notre Dame.