Mar 14, 2012, 10:16 PM EDT
Cretin-Derham Hall has been kind to the Notre Dame football program. And with Michael Floyd turning in his blue and gold for the NFL, Brian Kelly and company turned to the St. Paul school for its next potential offensive weapon. Dual-threat offensive star James Onwualu just gave his commitment to the Irish football program, turning down the chance to visit both Michigan and Ohio State to follow a long line of Cretin-Derham Hall talent to South Bend.
“Players from Cretin-Derham Hall have had a rich tradition of success at Notre Dame,” Onwualu told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I am really excited about playing there in the future.”
That rich tradition started with running back Rashon Powers-Neal and has continued with Floyd. In the middle players like Marcus Freeman, Matt Carufel, and former four-year starter Ryan Harris have gone from the Catholic school powerhouse to Notre Dame, a remarkable pipeline for a smaller school that’s produced more than its fair share of elite athletes, most notably Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who was USA Today’s player of the year in both football and baseball before being chosen No. 1 in the Major League baseball draft.
That Onwualu would choose to follow Floyd, one of his idols and a family friend, to Notre Dame isn’t surprising. That he’d be willing to close-up shop on a recruiting season that’s seen his profile rise quickly might be. But after a school service trip to Costa Rica that allowed Onwualu to unplug from the hoopla of recruiting and football, the choice to come to Notre Dame became abundantly clear.
“I had a bunch of great friends on that trip and just got the chance to hang out – no phone, no media, no football – and just figure out what I truly wanted for myself,” Onwualu told Rivals.com. “That was the time when it kind of clicked. I came back, had a conversation with my brother and my mom and we just figured out that it was something that felt right and would set me up for what I wanted to be doing in the future.”
The future isn’t quite as clear cut for Onwualu as it was for Floyd, who came to Notre Dame a clear-cut wide receiver. While his size and physicality — Onwualu is listed as six-foot-two and 205-pounds — have him looking the part of an outside threat, he’s done the most damage in the backfield, working as a hybrid player in a pro-style Cretin offense that’s incorporated more and more spread principles over the past few seasons.
That versatility, and the changes to the Cretin offense run by coach Mike Scanlan, might have helped make the fit even better for the Irish, with Tony Alford working with both inside wide receivers and running backs, positions where Onwualu will most likely contribute. The advanced offensive system that allowed Floyd to walk in and contribute immediately will likely make the transition to college easier for Onwualu, not to mention his relationship with Floyd, who has offered tips and an occasional workout buddy already.
Onwualu had offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford, and had a final four that also included Minnesota.He joins offensive lineman Steve Elmer and defensive end Jacob Matuska as commitments to the class of 2013.