After the 2021 season, Notre Dame was looking for a high-level safety to replace the vaunted production of first-round draft pick Kyle Hamilton; Northwestern junior safety Brandon Joseph was looking for a high-level program that could help him prepare for the NFL after his collegiate career.
A match just waiting to happen.
“I did my three years at Northwestern and for my fourth year, I knew I wanted to play in the NFL. Because of that, I wanted to be in the best position possible in my last year in college,” Joseph said. “Once I hit the portal, I knew I wanted to go to a top-level university. For me, personally, that meant academically, on the field and the ability to build the biggest network possible, which is why I wanted to come to Notre Dame.”
On Jan. 8, Joseph made it official, announcing his transfer to play for Marcus Freeman and the Fighting Irish. He joined a Notre Dame program bonded by the recent turmoil of the abrupt Brian Kelly departure. With a tightly knit culture that players refer to as the brotherhood, Notre Dame boasted a locker room of close relationships. It made it easy to be daunted by the prospect of transferring into the midst of the culture. But Joseph noted that his new teammates made the transition easy.
“My teammates took me in as soon as I got here. Being a new guy, I didn’t know if I’d be able to get relationships with the guys. How quick, how nice and how well they took me in, it was truly a blessing,” Joseph said. “I built great relationships with so many guys. For it to happen so quick, it’s been so great. I appreciate the guys for taking me in the way they did.”
Joseph was not a stranger to big stages. As a redshirt freshman in 2020, Joseph notched six interceptions for Northwestern, helping the Wildcats to the Big Ten championship. There, Joseph picked off Ohio State’s Justin Fields and nearly led Northwestern to a stunning upset. Thus, Joseph had big game experience when he got to Notre Dame, but he still cited the environment at Notre Dame as being a high point of his experience in South Bend.
“The atmosphere that Notre Dame brings, it’s insane, it’s something that I haven’t really had before. These sold out home games, having fans come to the away games the way they do.”
That atmosphere that Joseph talked about came to what felt like a massive high just two weekends ago against Clemson. The Irish thrashed the previously unbeaten Tigers 35-14 in primetime in front of a sellout crowd.
“It was insane. The atmosphere in that stadium was something you dream about as a little kid,” Joseph said. “For me to be able to experience that, to be on the field when you hear the crowd scream, it’s been crazy, it’s been a blessing.”
Joseph is currently considered a potential first-round draft prospect, should he declare for the draft at the end of this season. Some consider him the top safety in the draft class. Joseph credited the Irish coaching staff for their efforts in his development this past year.
“I think we have one of the best coaching staffs in the country … and I think I developed into the best player that I could be which is the biggest reason I wanted to come here.”
There’s still two regular season games and a potential bowl game left in this 2022 campaign for Joseph. And from there, there’ll be decisions to make regarding his future on the gridiron. But right now, Joseph isn’t focused on that, as much as he is focused on taking advantage of the time he has at Notre Dame, regardless of when that comes to an end.
“My time here has been the biggest blessing of my life … It’s been great. To come to a place like Notre Dame and meet everyone on my team and everyone I’ve met through my time here, it’s been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be. I learned so much in terms of becoming a better man,” Joseph said. “I know it’s not over yet, but almost a year out of my decision of coming here, it’s been everything I could imagine. My time here has been great, and I’m really appreciative of Notre Dame.”
Contact Aidan Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org