Notre Dame had the two quarterbacks they wanted when Brian Kelly took over the football program on December 10. One, Tommy Rees from Lake Forest High School (Ill.) opted to enroll at Notre Dame this month. The other, Andrew Hendrix was happy with his commitment to Notre Dame, but doubts crept into his mind about whether South Bend was the best destination for his football future. A big reason he began to waver on his commitment to the Irish, was the recruiting efforts being applied by the Florida Gator coaching staff.
“Florida really got involved when Notre Dame lost two in a row to Navy and then Pittsburgh,” Hendrix recalled. “Things were looking a little grim for coach Weis and that’s when Florida contacted me. When Notre Dame lost their next two, Florida really jumped in. I listened because I really didn’t know what direction Notre Dame was going to go in and because I really didn’t want to be left in the cold. When coach Weis got fired, that’s when they really came at me with all of their stuff. They said, ‘Let’s get you down here for a visit. Let’s do everything we can do to give you an option for Florida.’
“When I told them that I was truly interested, they came at me with everything that they had. I think they stopped recruiting the other guys, and just went solely after me, so I think I was their only major target through that period.
“They said I’d fit real well into the program. They said that they really needed a drop-back guy to come in and throw the ball, because they have one of the best drop-back quarterback coaches in the country in Scot Leoffler.
“With (John) Brantley and Trey (Burton) there, they would only have two guys on scholarship,” Andrew explained. “For a program like Florida to only have two quarterbacks on scholarship, that’s just terrible. It’s the same thing for Notre Dame. So both schools were very short on quarterbacks, so to get another quarterback in this class was a huge priority for Florida.”
After listening to the pitch made by the Florida coaching staff, Andrew felt that he needed to at least take a look at one of the top programs in the country. Although he was impressed with what he saw, fate may have played a hand during his visit.
“I spent a lot of time with coach Leoffler,” Hendrix said. “He definitely said that I was an important recruit and that they’d definitely love to have another quarterback in this class, one that they could develop and one with a very good arm. With the developmental aspect, he wanted to bring in a guy that he could coach up.
“Everything about that place is spectacular. When you see it, there is no question why they win so much and why they’re consistently in the top-five. The weather is usually great down there, but it was 45 degrees when I was there, so that must have been some type of omen.”
With one of the top programs in the country zeroing in on one of your commitments, Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame staff had to gauge the proper approach to take with Hendrix. Kelly opted for a portion of aggressive recruiting, balanced by a measure of patience.
“They definitely let me know how much that they wanted me when I went up there to visit with coach Kelly.” Hendrix explained. “He made it very clear that I was the guy that he wanted at Cincinnati, and that I was the guy that he wanted now that he was at Notre Dame. He said that he could see me doing good things within his offense.
“After we were done visiting, he asked me what else they could do, and I said, ‘Nothing, I still think that I will take this (Florida) visit.’ He gave me my space and I really appreciated that, because when I spoke to him later he said, ‘There was no reason to hound you, because your mind was made up that you were going to go down there and you just had to see for yourself.’ I think he was absolutely right.”
Coach Kelly wasn’t the lone participant in Andrew’s recruitment. After the beginning of the year, Hendrix frequently spoke with his future position coach, Charley Molnar and Notre Dame’s new defensive line coach, Mike Elston.
“I talked to coach Molnar, who is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, a bunch of times, as well as coach Elston,” he said. “I think they did a good job of keeping their distance, and not badgering me so to speak, but also letting me know how much they wanted me.
“Coach Molnar told me that he really liked me a lot. He’s definitely a great guy. He’s real personable. When you’re talking to him, you can tell what type of guy he is. He loves what he does and he’s really excited to be at Notre Dame. I think this might be one of his dream jobs. He definitely likes Notre Dame and he couldn’t be happier working here. I think he’s a real good coach, and I think he’ll be able to develop me and the other quarterbacks at Notre Dame.
“He said that I fit real well into his offense and that I was what he looked for in a quarterback,” Andrew said. “It was comforting hearing that I fit into his plans, because I definitely want to play wherever I go. Hearing all that definitely made my decision easier.”
Mike Elston won’t be doing much work on the offensive side of the ball at Notre Dame, but the time he spent recruiting Hendrix will certainly pay dividends for the Irish offense in the future.
“He is a great guy,” Hendrix responded when asked about coach Elston. “He’s just a real good guy, a classy guy. When he was the defensive line coach at Cincinnati they had phenomenal defensive lines. He turned Connor Barwin from a 2-star guy, into a second-round draft pick. I really didn’t get a chance to talk to him as much as coach Molnar, but after visiting with him and knowing him from before, I’m really excited that he’s one of the coaches that made trip from Cincinnati to South Bend.”
With the visit to Gainesville out of the way and taking Florida’s best shot, on Tuesday night Hendrix decided he would also make the trip from Cincinnati to South Bend.
“I think Notre Dame was best choice for my priority list,” Hendrix explained. “The first thing is definitely my faith. I’m Catholic and I go to a Catholic high school. Notre Dame is far and away a great place for a Catholic to go to school. With the Grotto and the Basilica and all that, it was very clear to me that even if I liked Florida over Notre Dame, which wasn’t the case, I don’t know if I could choose another school over Notre Dame, just because I know how strong my faith will be once I head to South Bend.
“The second part of my decision was the people over there. I became really good friends with Dayne Crist, Kyle Rudolph and Mike Golic Jr. They are guys that I could see myself spending the next three or four years with, and I could not be happier with that. I know what type of guys they are, and I know what type of guy they will help me become. That excites me a lot.
“The third part of my decision was the football part and the coaching,” he said. “I know what coach Kelly has done with quarterbacks. He along with coach Molnar will be very hands-on with the quarterbacks. Both of those guys are very good coaches. They’ve had a lot of success and I think I fit well into their offense. I can run the ball, and I think that will help a lot with the style of offense they will run.
“All that together really made it clear to me that Notre Dame was the place for me.”