Even though he was footing the bill, it’s also crazy to Hanratty how his own son Conor, the most sought after recruiting prospect on New Canaan’s current team, took visits to the state of California, the state of Florida and up and down the East Coast and Midwest to make sure he was making the right decision, before he pulled the trigger and verbally committed to Notre Dame this past weekend.
A high school All-American quarterback out of Butler (Pa.) Senior High back in 1965, Hanratty certainly didn’t go on a national tour before signing with Notre Dame himself.
Hardly anybody did. That type of stuff was unheard of.
One of the many differences between Hanratty’s recruitment and his son’s.
“If you went two states away for school, you went a long way away from home,” Hanratty said. He did just that at Notre Dame, where he went on to be a two-time All-American, leading the team to a National Championship in 1966 before a eight-year career in the NFL. “The airplane wasn’t a big deal back then.”
Hanratty’s coach also didn’t want his players taking advantage of college coaches or their programs. He’d been around the block before, coaching over 60 Division-I players in a 20-year period, and Hanratty fell in the middle of that.
“He said you’re not going to go out there to visit Southern Cal (on an official visit). He said the same thing about Miami and Texas, you’re not just going down there to visit. He said you have to be honest with schools, and I carried that over to Conor.”
Conor Hanratty, an ESPN 150 Watch List offensive tackle prospect, chose his father’s alma mater over scholarship offers from the likes of Boston College, California, Clemson, Florida State, Iowa, Maryland, UCLA, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The elder Hanratty had a bevy of scholarship offers to consider himself, and says he was offered everything under the sun by different alumni from every school with the exception of Notre Dame.
“I’d like to compliment the NCAA because every coach that contacted Conor, there wasn’t a gray area about it,” Hanratty began. “It was just above board and everything, and they stuck to all the rules with the phone calls. Everybody played by the rules which is really neat to see unlike the things I saw when I was in the same situation.
“I was offered cars, a house, furniture, money, my best friend gets a scholarship too. It was unbelievable. The only school that didn’t offer me anything was Notre Dame. (Head coach) Ara (Parseghian) said I’d have a chance to compete for the starting job. The way it came out of his mouth, I trusted him.”
For the younger Hanratty, he began receiving major recruiting attention during his sophomore year of high school. His father didn’t really start hearing from schools until his senior year, and didn’t commit to Notre Dame until January.
Hanratty’s older brother Pete attended Notre Dame on a half track and field, half academic scholarship. He himself never visited the campus until he took an official visit to South Bend during the winter of his senior year.
“You wouldn’t even think about spending money or getting on an airplane and flying to a school,“ Hanratty said. His father worked in a hardware store and his mother kept the home. “You worried more about meal money and food on the table.
“We lived little check to little check. There wasn’t any savings in the account for college.”
That’s why it was hard for Hanratty to ignore alumni from different schools offering money and expensive gifts.
“It was interesting when you see alumni flash a roll of money in your face and you grew up in a family that has nothing. It was attractive.”
Notre Dame was also always attractive to Hanratty and his family. Before Butler Senior High, Hanratty attended St. Paul Catholic School, where religion was instilled into him at a young age. Then there was his brother already enrolled in school in South Bend.
“I think back then, every Catholic kid wanted to go to Notre Dame. That was the target.”
Unlike now, back then college programs could drop by the high school or the house anytime they wanted. Hanratty wasn’t the only talent at his school, and coaches continuously came by the school.
Hanratty eventually narrowed down his list to Notre Dame, Michigan State and Penn State, but not without a fight from Ohio State.
“Woody Hayes came to the house and sat on our furniture and Woody was smart. He never talked to the player, only to the mother. After he left the house, my mother was like that Woody Hayes is a wonderful man, and I was like mother he might be a wonderful man, but he throws the ball like twice a game. That’s not for me.”
Michigan State almost was.
Hanratty eliminated the Nittany Lions and nearly became a Spartan.
“Then I met Ara and it was all over. I had to call Duffy Daugherty at Michigan State and tell him. I was petrified to make that call thinking he would yell and scream. He went on for the next half hour about what a great decision I made, and how great a coach Ara was, and made a 17-year old’s life real easy.
Hanratty also took his official visit to Michigan State in the winter, just before he visited Notre Dame. Parseghian also made a trip out East to see him.
“He came to Pittsburgh, and I drove down 25 miles to see him. There was a steak sandwich on the menu and it was three dollars and fifty cents, and I thought if I order this he’d think I was gouging him, so I went for the club sandwich for a dollar-fifty.”
Hanratty wanted to commit to Parseghian at that lunch, but waited to do so after getting home and talking it over with his mother.
“She was as happy as she could be. A catholic woman and Notre Dame, she couldn’t be happier.”
Hanratty’s parents let him make his own decision, and he and his wife Kelly did the same for Conor. And just like his parents were for him, they couldn’t be happier for their son.
“I knew it was the spot for Conor to be, but I never told him that. I told him that my experiences there, you have to feel it. He asked me early on, how am I going to know what school is best for me? I said you’ll feel it. It’s an intangible. You’ll be walking around and feel that comfort level, and you may have to take a leap of faith.”
Hanratty did that, when Parseghian told him he’d have a chance to start.
“Back then, they were allowed to take 35 players a year. They never said they’re not going to recruit any other quarterbacks. There were four coming in my freshman year. There was a lot of bodies running around when I was there.
“Schools brought in a lot of linemen, and there were a lot of position changes back then. You’d recruit one offensive lineman and he’d end up a defensive lineman. You’d have a quarterback end up at linebacker and another end up a safety.”
Hanratty was shocked by current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s reaction when his son gave his verbal pledge.
“Kelly jumped out of the chair. I couldn’t believe it. He said that’s great news. Now we have the spring game to go. it’s a great day. I was very impressed with his enthusiasm.”
Hanratty handled the football part of the decision, and his better half took care of the academics.
“She was a big part of the process. Every time we went anywhere, she’d skip the football practice but never the academic meetings. My daughter Erin was a trooper too. It’s not easy for her being 12-years old, being rucked around to all these meetings. She’s a sports fan, but it’s a little consuming for a 12-year old.”
While the thought of recruiting and taking visits consumed his son, it just wasn’t like that for the elder Hanratty.
“None of us every thought about it because it was quickly narrowed down to a few schools. You didn’t take a bunch of visits because you played other sports and you couldn’t miss your basketball season because you were visiting other schools.”
Times have certainly changed.
Back in January at the U.S. Army All-American National Combine in San Antonio, Texas, ESPN 150 Watch List offensive tackle Conor Hanratty said that every school he gets a scholarship offer from and visits, he’s comparing to Notre Dame.
For the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Hanratty, no school stacked up.
On Saturday, during a meeting with Irish head coach Brian Kelly prior to the Blue-Gold game, Hanratty gave his verbal commitment to Notre Dame.
“I kind of put Notre Dame on a pedestal, and my main goal was to size everyone up to Notre Dame, and I got a great look at a bunch of other great schools, but nothing against any of those other schools or coaches I met, but Notre Dame just pulled out ahead."
Hanratty’s father was an All-American at Notre Dame, and helped lead the Irish to the 1966 National Championship. The younger Hanratty chose Notre Dame over the likes of Iowa, Virginia, Stanford, California, Boston College, Florida State, Clemson, Maryland and Wisconsin.
“As of yesterday, I got a good glimpse of everything and everything was perfect," Hanratty said. He arrived in South Bend on Thursday and left right after the spring game. "The only missing component was I hadn’t met coach Kelly before. I had a couple questions, but when I met him today, he answered all the questions and that was the missing piece of the puzzle and it worked out perfectly.
“I’m very happy. Coach Kelly was basically just saying how much of a good fit I would be for their program. He said they’re looking for tough gentlemen, tough on the field and gentlemen off it, and I fit that perfectly. He was real ecstatic that I committed.”
Hanratty also enjoyed his time with his future teammates, coaches and watching the spring game.
“It was a blast. I had a lot of fun meeting all the other recruits and players and coaches. Everything was perfect. I thought they played well. Gave a good taste of what the offense and defense are about, and I think they’re going in the right direction.”
Jarrett Grace (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain) had the offer he wanted back in January.
The touted 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker just wanted to make sure he wasn’t jumping the gun.
Today at the Notre Dame spring game, Grace knew he wasn’t.
With his parents, brother, three sisters, brother-in-law and niece with him, he gave his verbal commitment to head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish program.
“It’s basically a dream school,” Grace told Irish Sports Daily on Friday. “I was so excited about this offer, more than any other offer. Right away it hit me that this is where I need to go. I thought about it and prayed about it and took a few visits, and it’s the right place for me.
Grace chose the Irish over scholarship offers from the likes of Tennessee, West Virginia, Boston College, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Cincinnati and Indiana. Grace is also a 4.0 student.
“Not only is coach Kelly a great coach that is going to do great things there, just the academic opportunities I’m going to have there, and the connections I’m going to have when I graduate, you can’t find that almost anywhere else. Then the religion aspect, it makes everything come full circle, and that’s what makes it the complete package.
“I found the school that has everything I want.”
As a junior, Grace had 95 tackles with 20 coming for loss and two interceptions. The Notre Dame coaching staff is recruiting him to play middle linebacker.
“I’m excited because the defense is similar to the defense we play, and to learn from a guy like Manti (Te’o) is going to be great.”
Grace has been wanting to give his verbal commitment all week, and couldn’t wait to arrive in South Bend.
“I haven’t slept for days,” Grace stated. “I’ve been waiting for this day to come.”
Basically since he got the Notre Dame scholarship offer.
He’ll never forget the trip he took to South Bend on Saturday, April 24th.
With his parents and brother by his side for the Irish spring game, the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Springmann verbally committed to Notre Dame.
“The schools I narrowed it down to, Wake Forest, Boston College, Stanford and Notre Dame, they’re all great academic schools, and they're all very respectable football programs,” Springmann told Irish Sports Daily on Thursday. The future Notre Dame defensive lineman also had scholarship offers from Michigan State, Purdue, Duke, Cincinnati, Louisville and Indiana.
“But I went out to Stanford for a few days over spring break and visited and everything, and you just don’t get the feeling you do when you’re at Notre Dame. There is something about being on the campus that just feels right.”
Notre Dame has always felt right to Springmann.
“Ever since I was seven or eight-years old, I remember watching Julius Jones and those guys play at Notre Dame, and it’s always been my dream to play at Notre Dame. In a sense, it’s unreal that it’s happened to me. I never thought I would be in a position like this. I’m thankful and it’s kind of overwhelming.”
Overwhelming is what opposing offensive linemen say about Springmann.
As a junior, Springmann helped lead Bishop Dwenger to the semi state round of the Indiana playoffs, recording 85 tackles and 10 sacks. As a sophomore, the team made it all the way to the state title game, with Springmann contributing 73 tackles and nine sacks.
“Playing basketball, playing AAU and playing basically my whole life, that has helped me gain footwork and natural abilities that help me play defensive line. I think that is one advantage I have on people I’m competing against, and will help me through my career.”
Springmann’s mother attended law school at Notre Dame, and both parents are definitely proud.
“My dad was very supportive of me and he just wanted me to be at the place I wanted to be at, not just the place that is the name of the school. He knew much how much I wanted to go to Notre Dame and couldn’t be happier. My mother was also very supportive. She is very excited. She went out to the bookstore and got some shirts and everything.”
Springmann is from the same high school as Notre Dame junior-to-be John Goodman, and sophomore-to-be Tyler Eifert.
“We’re real good friends,” Springmann said. “It’s pretty cool. I watched them on TV last year when Ty played in the Nevada game and Johnny played all year. Thinking two years ago we were on the same high school team, it’s hard to imagine, but I’m really looking forward to it and I think it will be great.”
Springmann was thinking the same thing about Saturday’s trip to Notre Dame.
Several other top prospects are on the way, in what could be a fruitful recruiting weekend for head coach Brian Kelly and the rest of the Irish coaching staff.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Hanratty holds scholarship offers from the likes of Florida State, Boston College, Stanford, Iowa, California, Clemson, Virginia and Wisconsin. He’s been to Notre Dame several times in the past and told Irish Sports Daily that he’s comparing every school he visits to the Irish program, and he’s taken trips to just about every school on his offer list. He is the son of former Notre Dame All-American quarterback and National Championship winner Terry Hanratty.
Future U.S. Under Armour All-American tight end Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa./Oil City) returns to South Bend with Notre Dame in his top two with Ohio State. The 6-foot-5, 228-pound ESPN 150 Watch List prospect also holds scholarship offers from the likes of Penn State, USC, Oklahoma, LSU, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
ESPN 150 Watch List receiver DaVaris Daniels (Vernon Hills, Ill./Vernon Hills) has Notre Dame as his leader, and told ISD this week his recruitment could come to an end with a great trip on Saturday. However, he says he still doesn’t plan to publicly announce a verbal commitment until May or June. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Daniels has also been offered by the likes of Oklahoma, Miami, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and Arkansas. He attended Notre Dame’s junior day on March 20th.
Touted linebacker Jarrett Grace (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain) also attended the Irish’s recent junior day, and plans to return this weekend with his whole family. Notre Dame looks to be the leader here, with the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Grace also considering offers from the likes of Cincinnati, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, Boston College, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Northwestern.
Tony Springmann (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger) recently added his Notre Dame scholarship offer, and the Irish are in his top four with Wake Forest, Boston College and Stanford. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive lineman was also offered by the likes of Michigan State, Purdue and Cincinnati, and has visited the South Bend campus several times in the past, including for junior day.
Notre Dame’s first verbal commit in the class-of-2011, defensive end Brad Carrico (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman), will also be back in town.
ESPN 150 Watch List offensive lineman Jordan Walsh (Glen Ellyn, Ohio/Glenbard West) holds scholarship offers from the likes of USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern and Boston College. He’d love to add one from Notre Dame, and also visited the school for junior day.
Sean Duggan (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) is a new prospect on Notre Dame’s list and the Irish staff wants to get a better look at the 6-foot-4, 210-pound linebacker. He already holds offers from Boston College, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Duke, Ball State and Air Force.
Justin Garrett (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) just named a top three of Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky, but an offer from the Irish should move Notre Dame into the top group for the standout outside linebacker/safety prospect. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Garrett also holds scholarship offers from the likes of Florida State, Auburn, North Carolina and South Carolina, and is the younger brother of Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter. He’s been to South Bend a few times in the past, but his trip remains in doubt this weekend because of illness.
Crow In Town
Touted class-of-2012 quarterback Gray Crow (Clearwater, Fla./Countryside) will arrive in South Bend late tonight with Notre Dame as his early leader. He plans to return for camp this summer, and held a verbal offer from the previous Irish staff.
2010 To Be Well Represented
Expect to see many of Notre Dame’s class-of-2010 signing class in attendance, including defensive tackle Louis Nix (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines), quarterback Andrew Hendrix (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller) and receiver Bennett Jackson (Hazlet, N.J./Raritan). ESPN 150 Watch List offensive tackle Conor Hanratty (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan) is already in South Bend for Saturday’s Notre Dame spring game.
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