Across the country today, high school football prospects will sign national letters of intent to play in college.
Many of them will say afterward that their choice is “the right school for me.”
Rarely does a young talent reverse that perspective and say that he is the right fit for what a certain program desires.
Notre Dame is expected to sign a class that ranks among the best in the country, and lost within that morass is a player who embodies those core traits that the Irish relish.
Wide receiver Jalen Guyton, of Allen High School in Allen, Texas, is merely a three-star recruit but comes close to that self-aware ideal.
See, the cerebral teenager knows he will be a square peg in a square hole in South Bend.
Who is Guyton?
He’s the type of kid who asks a reporter whether there is a single “meathead” on the Irish roster, hoping and expecting the answer to be no.
He’s the type of kid who says “getting your school paid for is unreal” and also that, “I want to study so much it’s almost ridiculous.”
And – this matters, too – he’s a winner on the gridiron.
Guyton helped Allen High to three straight state Class 5A Division I titles.
“Playing at Allen is surreal,” he said. “It’s huge football games. Playing in front of 20,000 fans at a high school game is unbelievable to a lot of people. As far as prepping me for college, it’s good that I got to experience something not a lot of people have gotten to experience.”
If there were ever a guy ready for the expectations and atmosphere of tradition-rich Notre Dame, it would be someone from a prep power.
“Allen’s facilities are basically on the same level as a lot of D-I colleges,” Guyton said. “I don’t say that to boast, but that’s just what I’ve noticed. Without a doubt, it’s a blessing to go there.”
Sprawling Eagle Stadium, built for a cool $60 million, opened his sophomore year.
“Allen, you could say, is like the Notre Dame of high schools,” Guyton said.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Guyton, who caught 74 passes for 1,605 yards as a senior, is the eager mind the Irish seek.
His Twitter account, for example, is replete with philosophical messaging.
“I have a lot of followers and try to parlay that into spreading knowledge and wisdom to anybody that’s willing to listen,” he said.
Guyton also practices yoga on a regular basis – not for athletic training, he says, but for the “spiritual side.”
Of the 18 players who will join the Irish on national signing day, only Guyton and linebacker Bo Wallace, from River Ridge, Louisiana, attend high schools in the South. Irish coach Brian Kelly believes winning the Music City Bowl in December over LSU, a Southeastern Conference power, will help Notre Dame recruit others like Guyton in the region.
“It allows us to continue to recruit in the area without having to apologize for who we are,” Kelly said.
Four members of the 22-man Irish class – defensive tackles Jerry Tillery and Micah Dew-Treadway, offensive lineman Tristen Hoge and linebacker Tevon Coney – enrolled for this semester.
“We’ve got some mid-year guys that have signed that will immediately help our football team,” Kelly said.
Kelly insisted recruits did not express concern over the 7-5 regular season that preceded the Music City Bowl victory.
“I think everybody looks at it in more of a bigger picture perspective than maybe one month of the season,” Kelly said. “I think they look at it over (my) five years here more so than what happened over the last month of the season.”
Overall, Kelly said the Irish “feel really good about where we are” with the 2015 class.
And Guyton is confident the others share his values.
“The fact they chose a school like Notre Dame and are willing to accept that challenge says something about the person you are,” Guyton said.
“If you chose it for just football, that’s something different, but the fact we’re all going to Notre Dame says we’re into it for more than just football.”