SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. – In the booth at the local In-N-Out burger, Dayne Crist went unnoticed. There were no autograph seekers, just the quarterback, a close friend and a visitor eating lunch.The fast-food restaurant is Crist’s go-to place and for Crist, it’s the three-by-three: three burgers broken up by three buns.
“It’s kind of a Catch-22,” Crist said. “You’re trying to cherish the time you have left here.”
Crist departed his beloved In-N-Out and Southern California for less trendy South Bend last week as he begins his Notre Dame career at a place he never thought he’d be when he started the recruiting process.
He is one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the Class of 2008, another protégé of quarterback-savant Steve Clarkson and a friend of Irish starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
More than anything, timing brought Crist to Notre Dame. He almost went to LSU. And he almost went to USC.
Notre Dame – no way.
“Really, from the bottom of my heart,” Crist said. “(I) did not think for a second I would end up there.”
Crist planned his visits strategically so he’d be on campus during the worst of the potential weather. For Notre Dame, it meant during winter. For LSU, he visited during the humidity of a Louisiana summer.
LSU was Crist’s first trip. And if he hadn’t already set up all the others, he’d likely be heading to Baton Rouge. He liked the campus, the coaches, felt comfortable with everything. Coach Charlie Weis can thank Crist’s advance booking for bringing him to South Bend.
“I was very close to (committing to LSU), very, very close,” Crist said. “Then I took the trip to Stanford, and I liked that a lot, but I was still thinking LSU. Then I went to a couple practices at (USC) and talked with coach (Pete) Carroll and coach (Steve) Sarkisian a couple times before I went to Notre Dame, like two or three times.
“The day before I left for my Notre Dame trip, I was sitting in coach Sarkisian’s office very close to committing to SC and I said ‘I have one more trip I’m going on to Notre Dame and I’m going to check that out before I make any decision.’ I told them I’ll get back to them when I got back from the trip. At that point, I thought I was signed, sealed and delivered for (USC).”
When he arrived at Notre Dame, he saw South Bend blanketed in snow and said to his father ‘What are we doing?’ Then he saw one of his best friends, Anthony McDonald. And he touched snow for the first time in his life – without gloves – and threw a snowball at McDonald.
“My hands were freezing,” Crist said.
The next day, Crist met with Weis and had a feeling he never expected – comfort. Crist waited to commit even though he knew the second he talked with Weis he would be in South Bend for college. And with the commitment, Crist became a known commodity before arrived at Notre Dame.
Crist, McDonald, wide receiver John Goodman and others were standing inside Notre Dame Stadium, trying to make an exit after the Blue-Gold game. But a crowd waited outside the gate on the south side. Goodman saw a path.
Instead, he and the rest of the recruits were mugged for autographs.
“It was really funny because we were all signing autographs but kept going farther and farther and the crowds would just get bigger around us,” Goodman said. “I finally, finally, got around it, and I ran by Dayne’s group of people and I just laughed at him and just ran back to my car.”
It is what Crist can expect over the next four to five years. Crist has the potential to be one of Notre Dame’s great quarterbacks. He has the size – 6-foot-5, 228 pounds. He has the cover-boy good looks of one of his predecessors, Brady Quinn. He also will wear Quinn’s number – 10.
It isn’t a comparison point. Since he’s been little, he’s always worn 10. He even called Quinn to ask permission to be the next to wear the jersey.
“The notoriety sometimes, you feel kind of guilty, like what did I do to deserve all this,” Crist said. “It just seems, it’s kind of weird, a new thing for me. I’ve never been big on limelight or any sort of celebrity.
“It’s not in my character to change who (I) am in front of the camera or talking to someone else. The way that people see me, I hope they understand that’s how I always am.”
And like Quinn, he seems to have the ability to relax people within seconds of meeting them.
“He is definitely somebody that you would not be surprised to see in Washington someday as like a senator,” Clarkson said. “He has that kind of makeup.”