The firing of Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis and the recent hiring of his replacement, Brian Kelly, has left three Irish commitments playing in today's Offense-Defense All-American Bowl with mixed emotions.
Andrew Hendrix, Justin Utupo and Prince Shembo were all recruited by Weis and have been in contact with Kelly since his hiring. Rather than preparing his former squad - Cincinnati - for Friday's Sugar Bowl matchup against Florida, Kelly has been on the recruiting trail and visiting Irish commitments over the past few weeks.
"It's kind of messed up how he left his team at Cincinnati," said Shembo, who played at Audrey Kelly High School in Charlotte. "I mean if Texas would have lost in the Big-12 championship he could be playing for a national title."
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"That just tells me that he is in it for the money. Obviously it's a business, but it is also my future. He is coming to my house on Jan. 5 but I am still going to take my visit to Miami."
Kelly, who grew up Catholic in Boston, has said the Notre Dame position is a "dream job," although he will receive a nice raise at South Bend, Ind.
It's similarities in their upbringing that makes Hendrix feel confident in his decision to attend Notre Dame. Hendrix, a Cincinnati Moeller product, was recruited by Kelly at Cincinnati, but when Weis offered a scholarship he bit because of his Catholic faith.
"I've talked a lot with coach Kelly," Hendrix said. "It's an easy transition for me and once he was named the new coach I knew Notre Dame would still be a good fit."
Utupo chose Notre Dame for other reasons.
"Being Samoan we are big on family," said the California native. "That's what Notre Dame prides itself on. When I was little I wanted to play for Notre Dame or USC, but I wanted a place where I can bring my grandma to a game and she would fit right in.
"She would like it in South Bend."
Dylan Favre, nephew of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, is one of several football family names on this year's O-D roster.
Favre threw for 5,511 yards, rushed for 1,188 and had 81 touchdowns at St. Stanislaus High School in Bay St. Louis (Miss.) this season, but the Mississippi State commitment is trying to create his own image.
"I've been dealing with this nephew of Brett thing for 17 years," the younger Favre said. "Hopefully my game speaks for itself."
Though O-D generously lists him at 6-foot, Favre is closer to 5-foot-9, and doesn't exactly fit the mold of a pro-style offense that East coach Ron Hudson will be running today.
"The only time I got under center in high school was to take a knee," said Favre, who only sought out schools that ran a spread offense during the recruiting process. "We have had to compromise on a few things this week so that I can fit the offense."
As for his size?
"I'm never going to play in a pro-style offense, but in the [shot]gun I can move and make the throws all the other guys do," he said. "I think I have a pretty good arm.''
North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest didn't want him and by the time Duke offered him a scholarship Kevin Parks had verbally committed to Virginia - with plans to stay true.
Park is the all-time leading rusher in the state of North Carolina and finished his career 336 yards behind Ken Hall of Sugar Land (Texas), whose record of 11,232 career yards has stood since 1953. Parks does rank first in two national categories, including 55 games with at least 100 rushing yards, breaking the previous mark of 47 by Michael Hart of Onondaga (N.Y.) from 2000-03.
Parks' 1,370 career attempts also broke Archie (Mo.) halfback Brad Hocker's 1,353 carries from 1988-91.
Still, at 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, the West Rowan product was deemed too slow and not tall enough to play for a D-I school in his home state.
"It adds fuel to the fire that they didn't want me because I was eyeing Wake Forest early," Parks said. "When we play [fellow Atlantic Coast Conference teams] North Carolina, State, and Wake Forest, I'll definitely have extra motivation."