Scott Johnson knew Grant Blankenship had grown up a Notre Dame fan, so the Colony High School recruiting coordinator tried to get in touch with the Irish staff to send film of the 2014 Texas defensive end/linebacker, but had no luck.
Even as Blankenship began receiving dozens of Division-I scholarship offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Oregon, Ole Miss, Kansas State, Iowa and Illinois among others, Johnson couldn’t establish any contact with the Irish.
“It really didn’t look like Notre Dame had a lot of interest in him, so we were just kind of playing it like that,” Johnson remembered. “It got to be pretty late in the school year and his mother said, ‘I was really disappointed that Notre Dame didn’t offer him and we haven’t been able to get a hold of anybody at Notre Dame.’ I said, ‘Let me give it one more try and see if I can get a hold of somebody.’”
So Johnson called and left voice messages about Blankenship at the Irish football offices.
“‘He’s 6-6, 240 and runs a 4.7. He’s an all-state defensive end here in Texas. The kid had 16 sacks last year,’” Johnson recalled. “I left all of that on the voicemail and was finally able to get a coach to call me back. I got video directly to him the next day. They watched the video and liked him and then two days later, he had an offer.”
It was clear right away, the offer was a big one.
“Notre Dame was the last school to offer him,” said Johnson. “They got in really late. They were excited about it. Just speaking with the coaches and talking with Grant and his family, you could tell it was a big deal when Notre Dame offered.
“I think up until that point, OU (Oklahoma) probably would have been the top school on the board for him. He had visited OU several times and really felt good about that program as well. When Notre Dame came in and threw their name in the hat, that kind of put a twist on things and he had to make up his mind what he wanted to do. We sat down and talked quite a bit. I told him, ‘You need to go up there and see the campus and make sure you feel good about it. You’ll know. After you visit, you’ll know whether it’s Notre Dame or OU.’”
Blankenship had plans to attend Notre Dame’s camp last month, along with his cousin who lives in the Midwest, long before the Irish ever offered. It may have been the last offer Blankenship would receive, but it was the one he would accept as the 2014 Texas defensive end offered his verbal commitment to the Irish on Friday, not long after taking his first trip to campus for that camp a couple weeks ago.
“After the camp was over, he felt like Notre Dame was the place to be and wanted to go ahead and make a commitment, so that’s what we did,” said Johnson. “I called and got a hold of the coaching staff there and got that done.”
Blankenship had the chance to spend time with the Irish coaching staff, see the campus and be get a sense of the program.
“He had OU and Oregon and several big schools, Kansas State, teams that are predominantly in the top 25 in the country,” said Johnson. “Notre Dame was really high on his list. He grew up an Irish fan. When he was a little boy, he always watched Notre Dame on TV. I think that played a big part in it. He had a childhood fantasy of one day being able to put on the gold helmet and all of that. When he got the opportunity, he wanted to go up there and at least see the campus and everything before he made his final decision. He was able to go up there and felt pretty good about it.”
Blankenship is the 46th Division-I prospect Johnson has helped guide through the process.
“It’s always hectic no matter who it is,” he said. “Whether it’s Notre Dame or Florida State or whoever. It’s always exciting and when you get a kid that’s got 30 offers, it’s hectic.
“My cell phone last month, just my cell phone, had 78 pages of text messages and phone calls. I know this, my wife is glad he made a commitment. She was very happy for him.”
And Blankenship is happy as well. His decision is final and he won’t be making any other visits.
“After we made the commitment, I contacted the other schools that had been recruiting him and let them know he’d made a commitment,” Johnson said. “They were all disappointed obviously, but at the same time, they were happy for him. They understand Notre Dame is a great school and it will be a great opportunity for him.
“He had visits set up to Northwestern and Kansas State while he was in the Midwest, but once he called me and we made the commitment, he cancelled those.”