There were several highlights of Tristen Hoge’s first visit to Notre Dame and the trip was capped off with Irish head coach Brian Kelly offering the 2015 Idaho offensive lineman a scholarship.
“I can’t even explain it,” the 6-foot-5, 286-pounder said of his emotions at the time.
“My mind was just racing. I couldn’t even find the words to explain it even with Coach Kelly right in front of me. I couldn’t find the words to say thank you, it was so awesome. It was a great experience. It was awesome.”
Hoge had no problem finding the words to describe where Notre Dame ranks on his current list of leaders.
“One, number one,” Hoge said confidently.
The Highland High School standout picked up an offer from Penn State earlier in the week to add to a list that already included BYU, Utah, Boise State and Washington State. Hoge said the Nittany Lions were a close second, but the Irish have so many positives.
“First of all the academics, they rate first,” said Hoge. “Not only the graduation rate, but they set you up for success, they rely on you to be accountable for yourself, but they still give you the right tools to become successful.”
Hoge also learned about the tools Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand offers.
“It was a lot different than I expected,” Hoge said of Hiestand’s coaching techniques. “Coach Hiestand is a great coach. He’s got different techniques than what I learned throughout my career. I conformed to it. It wasn’t a hard transition. I just had to leave my mind open to all possibilities.
“They explained it and it’s just another tool in your toolbox, it’s a different wrench in your toolbox. It’s always useful to learn different things.”
By Tuesday, it was clear Notre Dame had major interest in Hoge.
“Coach pulled me aside and said, ‘I want to take you on a tour of the school,’” Hoge recalled. “’We’re going to check you out of camp early.’ They took me on a tour of the school (Tuesday) night.
“That was actually a great experience because they showed everything to me. There was not one minor detail that was left out.”
Hoge returned to campus Wednesday morning for an academic tour.
“I talked with the academic advisors and the academic counselor, which is a good insight to show me their great academics,” he said. “All together, they showed me every nook and cranny of what the school has to offer. It speaks volumes to me.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Hoge was in Kelly’s office.
“He sat me and my parents down,” said Hoge. “We had a good conversation and he gave me the offer.
“Coach Hiestand explained to Coach Kelly that he loved my coachability, my toughness and especially my film. They discussed it, they watched the film and they watched me on the field and they were highly impressed. I stood out to them and that’s what got me the offer.”
Hoge also had the opportunity to eat lunch with several of the incoming freshman offensive linemen.
“You can always ask a player who’s been there for four years, but it’s always great to get the insight of a newcomer to see what they like of their experiences right off the bat,” said Hoge. “I thought that was really special to learn about what they liked. It was good.
“My whole experience shot to a whole new level. Notre Dame is a fantastic school. It’s really appealed to me and I love it.”
Hoge will make a trip to Stanford next month and that’ll be it for summer visits. He doesn’t have a firm timeline for a decision.
“Me and my parents are still discussing what we’re going to do,” he said. “I do have to keep lines of communication open with my parents and other coaches. It’s always going to be a family decision and right now, I don’t know if it’ll be soon.
“Either way, it’s looking like a bright future.”