Justin Brent was considered a raw prospect when he committed to Notre Dame about a year ago. The 2014 Indianapolis wide receiver put together an exceptional junior season for Speedway High School that included 54 receptions for just under 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Still, some analysts had questions about the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder’s ability to play at the highest level. Virtually all of those questions were answered to just about everybody’s satisfaction at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge earlier this month in Chicago.
Brent was one of the best receivers at the event, showing his ability to make big plays while being a polished route-runner.
“It was just like every other camp,” Brent said modestly. “I went to the Rivals one and I went to the ESPN one, the NFTC in Columbus. There’s no pressure. It’s just going out there and having fun and competing with the guys. There’s no pressure to perform or anything like that.”
Brent wasn’t surprised with his performance.
“I’ve always had confidence in myself,” he said. “I committed very early before a lot of people, so I didn’t end up with 30 or 40 offers because I went off the board pretty early. The Notre Dame coaches said sometimes that will affect your ranking, but I didn’t really go there to boost my ranking. I just went there to have fun and take advantage of it.”
Brent initially considered himself a basketball prospect, but even after a tough loss in the state semifinals this past season, he’ll pass on playing hoops as a senior.
“I’m not doing basketball this year, so I’ll take that time to train for football instead of worrying about playing another sport,” he said. “I just came to the conclusion, I’d be better off worrying about the sport I have a scholarship for.
“I think that’ll pay off in the long run and hopefully when I get to ND, I’ll see the results.”
But even though he’s already made that decision, the results probably won’t be seen for several months.
“As far as my training, I’m still doing the same amount of training I did last year,” Brent said. “I had basketball workouts last summer, but I still had enough time to train every day like I do now.”
Brent does have a bit more free time without basketball and is more comfortable fully devoting himself to football, but the big improvement will likely come next winter, when he’d usually be playing hoops.
Next up for Brent is The Opening this weekend in Oregon and he’ll be coming with the same attitude.
“No matter how big the camp is, no matter how good the competition is, I’m just going to have fun,” he said. “I know what I can. I know I can catch the ball. I know I’m fast. I’m just going to go out there and have fun and show what I can do. It’s not like it’s do-or-die.”
He is looking forward to getting a look at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m a huge Jordan guy. I’ll get to get out there and see what the Nike complex is all about. I’m excited. Somebody in Columbus told me it was like Santa Claus out there. I’m excited to spend some money.”
He’ll be one of four Irish commits along with quarterback DeShone Kizer, running back Elijah Hood and offensive lineman Quenton Nelson participating. Brent has been texting with Kizer since the Ohio quarterback’s commitment and the two are already talking about getting together to throw before getting to South Bend for good.
“We’ve become close,” Brent said of himself and his future quarterback. “I’ve also become close with Elijah because we roomed together in Chicago. I haven’t really met Quenton yet, but I will this weekend.”
There will be scores of uncommitted prospects on the Irish’s board in attendance as well, but Brent considers himself a player and not a recruiter.
“I’m really not good at the recruiting thing,” he laughed.
“Elijah is the bomb at it, but I kind of stay in the background unless the coaches ask me to. I’ll let him take care of it. I’ll put my two cents in if I need to.”