The Journal Gazette
Sunday, March 22, 2020 1:00 am

In Eifert, Irish getting a leader

Notre Dame walk-on more than following brother

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

It's difficult to think about Griffin Eifert as an athlete without considering who his older brothers are. Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger wide receiver and defensive back, is the younger brother of former Notre Dame and Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, as well as former Purdue basketball player Grady Eifert.

On Monday, Griffin Eifert made his connection to Tyler even stronger when he committed to play football at Notre Dame as a preferred walk-on. But even though he was in touch with Tyler throughout the recruiting process and said his older brother is “proud” of him, he wants to be his own player by the time he's done in South Bend.

“Yeah I want to follow in (Tyler's) footsteps, but I also want to build my own legacy,” the younger Eifert said. “Just being me and leaving my own mark there hopefully would be pretty special too.”

Eifert flew somewhat under the radar in recruiting circles and will start without a scholarship at Notre Dame, but Bishop Dwenger coach Jason Garrett said the Irish are getting a player who can contribute on and off the field.

“As I shared with many coaches when they came through my office, talking to me about Griffin, he's just an amazing young man, first and foremost,” Garrett said. “His personality, his character, his moral compass, he's an exceptional young man.

“Then you couple that with being tremendously athletic, extremely coachable, highly competitive, he was a captain for us so he's a tremendous leader. ... I say he's a coach's dream.”

Eifert grew up watching Notre Dame football, including the 2012 season, Tyler's final year in the program, when the Irish completed a 12-0 regular season. He vividly remembers the team's October clash with No. 17 Stanford, when the Irish won with a goal line stand in overtime after Tyler had caught a 24-yard fade for a touchdown to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

So did Griffin ever dream of making a catch like that at Notre Dame Stadium?

“Oh yeah, yeah,” he said. “Once or twice.”

As Garrett indicated, Eifert was not offered a preferred walk-on spot simply because he is a legacy. He is a talented player with the stats and victories at Dwenger to back it up. He won a Class 4A state championship with the Saints in 2018 and as a senior in 2019, he caught 30 passes for 478 yards (a 15.6-yard average) and seven touchdowns as Dwenger made a second straight run to semistate.

Eifert said he prefers to play offense, but he will gladly play any position, including special teams, that will help get him on the field. He has plenty of defensive prowess, as well, racking up 42 tackles and five interceptions as a senior.

The Notre Dame coaching staff told Eifert he would likely start by playing offense primarily and then potentially get reps on defense or special teams once he puts on some weight. As he prepares to enter the Irish program this fall, he is currently in Florida, working out with Tyler and trying to put on weight and add speed.

Garrett has no doubt that Eifert, who is listed at 6-foot and 175 pounds on, will be able to put on the necessary strength to get on the field at Notre Dame.

“Many (college coaches) were kind of hesitant just because of where he was physically and his height mainly,” the Dwenger coach said. “As we all know, Tyler and Grady both grew a little bit later.

“I told everybody, I think he's got the athleticism and give him a little bit of size and the sky is the limit for the young man. I think he'll grow a little bit and I think he has incredible potential to go to the highest level.”

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