Jesse Bongiovi had already decided to walk on at Notre Dame as a freshman in 2013 while his good friend and 2014 Poly Prep Country Day teammate Jay Hayes was trying to make his own decision.
“He was showing me all of these letters and I’d be like, ‘Jay, come on, stop messing around. You want an opportunity, you’re going to come with me,’” Bongiovi recalled.
“I had like a ton of letters in my hand - Oregon, Michigan, Alabama,” Hayes chimed in. “He was like, ‘You need to stop BSing Notre Dame.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t wait around and try to be on TV or something.’”
It was clear Bongiovi was getting through to the 2014 defensive lineman with dozens of BCS offers.
“He was like, ‘You know what, you’re right,’” Bongiovi recalled.
Hayes wasn’t sure what he needed to do, so his buddy told him to talk to their coach.
“He forced me to go to Coach,” laughed Hayes. “I went to Coach.”
“That afternoon, it was like, ‘Jay Hayes Commits To Notre Dame,’” Bongiovi remembered.
Hayes felt confident with the decision, which he made in November, immediately.
“Once I committed, I had that feeling that this was the right place,” he said. “It’s rare that you get that feeling.”
That feeling was well before his first-ever visit to South Bend, which came just last month for the Irish’s Junior Day. Hayes was back on campus again this weekend for Notre Dame’s spring game.
“Just being out here is just great,” he said. “I consider Jesse like my older brother. The people who see me now, see my personality and Jesse just adds to it. He helps me out and I go to him for advice. Having an older brother that helps me out and I look up to him, it’s a great thing. It’s a great bond.”
Bongiovi, the son of Jon Bon Jovi, will be a freshman this fall while Hayes still has to wait a year before it’s his turn.
“I can’t wait,” Bongiovi said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to break it all in for him and then we’ll be good. He’s like my little boy.”
Even though it was only his second time in South Bend, Hayes said it’s already starting to feel like home.
“Just getting to know the players on the team and them saying my name, saying what’s up to me and seeing how I’m doing, that’s when you really see the camaraderie,” he said. “That’s what separates Notre Dame from other school.
“There’s a lot of love. It’s great. I really enjoyed it.
He enjoyed the game, but had to playfully question defensive tackle Louis Nix’ loyalty to his unit.
“Lou was a little cheater,” Hayes laughed. “He left the defense to get an offensive play. Coach Kelly gave me and a few other recruits the heads up that Lou was going to do that. It’s good because defense wins championships.”
Hayes had the chance to meet 2014 offensive line commit Jimmy Byrne for the first time.
“He’s a great guy,” Hayes said of Byrne. “He’s nice. I’m going to beat him up a little bit.”
Hayes didn’t get the chance to play wide receiver commit Justin Brent in basketball.
“He bailed out early,” he laughed. “I said, ‘One-on-one.’ He said, ‘Nah man, you don’t want that.’ He’s scared. It probably won’t happen until senior year.”
And he also spent some time with an uncommitted visitor.
“I got a chance to talk to Dante Booker, he has to pick ND,” Hayes said of the 2014 Ohio linebacker.
“What I said to his father should resonate with his father when he goes to Ohio State. You’ll realize the atmosphere at ND is much greater than at Ohio State.”