Ishaq Williams was leaning toward Notre Dame last Thursday night. An unexpected visitor made his decision easier.
As the Lincoln All-American defensive end/tight end was packing for his official visit to Penn State, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco knocked on his front door, at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning.
Ninety minutes and a few cups of coffee later, Williams didn’t need to see State College again. He was sold on South Bend, Ind., and head coach Brian Kelly’s program.
“That was the moment I felt Notre Dame was right for me,” Ishaq Williams said during a press conference at Lincoln hours after his commitment. “He said a lot of things that hit home, but just him being there meant a lot. Most people are still sleeping at that time. I would’ve still been sleeping.”
Diaco actually called the house 12:01 a.m. that night, the minute the dead recruiting period to contact prospects ended. That spoke volumes, Ishaq Williams’ father Shaun said, to the commitment Notre Dame made to landing his son because he was obviously the first call. They didn’t cover any new ground. The three talked about the unique educational opportunities Notre Dame could offer, the diversity on its campus and the alumni network that would be at Williams’ fingertips. Then, they discussed football.
Once Diaco left, Shaun Williams began to gather their stuff for the trip before his son stopped him.
“It doesn’t make any sense to go any place now,” Ishaq Williams told his father.
The five-star recruit picked the Fighting Irish over Penn State and Syracuse on Friday morning, ending his whirlwind recruitment. It included up to 30 BCS-level scholarship offers and a six-day delay of his decision.
“It came down to the wire,” he said.
Ishaq Williams, who led Lincoln to its first city championship game appearance in 17 years this fall, originally planned to commit on national television during last weekend’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, but opted to wait and re-evaluate his options.
The last six days were a trying time. His phone rang off the hook. Fans of three schools peppered his Facebook page with their personal recommendations. Shaun Williams joked that dishes were left in the sink and the two had a few heated arguments.
“It’s a burden off my back,” he said. “I’m ready to take the next step in my life.”
The one holdup when it came to Notre Dame was Ishaq Williams’ position. The Fighting Irish was asking him to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. At Lincoln, Ishaq Williams was strictly a defensive end, but the more it was discussed, the more comfortable Williams grew in regards to the role. If he could shine as a tight end, covering running backs and tight ends shouldn’t be a problem.
“We know his athletic ability will shine at that position,” Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor said.
An early enrollee, Williams (6-foot-6, 220) plans to drive to Notre Dame with his father on Sunday and begin taking classes Tuesday.
“I feel real comfortable with my decision,” Ishaq Williams said. “I took football out of it and I felt Notre Dame would be the best place for me.”
Williams talked with reverence about the tradition of Notre Dame. He attended its 27-3 victory over Army Nov. 20 at Yankee Stadium and was amazed by the passion the school has in New York City. While the program hasn’t been among the nation’s best in several years, he feels Kelly can return it to prominence, and he wants to help.
“It’s a great honor to be able to go there and I feel I need to do what I can to put it back on the pedestal it once was on,” Ishaq Williams said.