Even through a coaching change, 2023 Irvington (N.J.) High School safety Adon Shuler has remained strong in his commitment to the Irish. His father, Don Shuler, went in-depth about his son’s recruitment and what makes the Notre Dame program special.
To sum it up simply: Marcus Freeman and his recruiting prowess have stood ahead of everything else. Even with Brian Kelly’s exit to Baton Rouge, that relationship stood strong. From the beginning, the Irish sold their vision to the New Jersey product.
“Once (Adon) got on their radar, there was constant communication between him and Coach Freeman, Chris O'Leary, as well as with Chad (Bowden) and I believe he had a few zoom meetings with those guys and built a good relationship early on,” Shuler explained. “Once we went down for the first time to visit the campus, and Adon had a workout and it went well, it was just nice and a very different place. We enjoyed it and couldn’t get enough of it.”
From that point, the Irish quickly became the team to beat. It was those relationships that really set it over the top for the Shuler family.
“Basically, the relationship just kept building and it was going well with Coach Freeman, O’Leary, and Chad as well,” Shuler said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t just about football with those guys. It was about his well-being after football, with education and the kind of career he can have outside of football by going to Notre Dame.”
Adon comes from a very close-knit family with a strong sports imprint on their background. They made sure to set a plan early to navigate the recruiting process and everything that the family holds important. That pointed plan was something that was finalized early on.
“Yes absolutely. Me, him, my wife talked about this years ahead of time since he played youth football,” he explained. “We’ve always had a plan for him and his brothers. We just always tried to drive that home to him. Before he got any offers, we were all on the same paths to understand what we wanted to accomplish.”
When there is a head coaching change, there can be some uneasiness for recruits - especially ones who are committed to the previous staff. Luckily for this commitment specifically, Shuler’s interactions revolved mostly around coaches who will be a part of the next era of Notre Dame football.
“For the most part, we built the relationship with Coach Marcus Freeman, as well as Coach O’Leary and Chad. From a day to day basis, that’s who we were dealing with,” Shuler said. “We were able to do a couple calls with Coach Kelly when he was still there and we did meet him at one of the visits. But for the most part, it was always Coach Freeman, O’Leary and Chad.”
Everyone seems to be incredibly optimistic for what the Freeman Era could bring to South Bend. The Shuler household is one of those optimists who are excited for the next chapter.
“There’s no doubt about it that Coach Freeman can help change the young man to become better men, better husbands in the future, better fathers, better role models and professionals,” explained Shuler. “When you talk to Coach Freeman, it’s all genuine. In today’s world, it’s a lot of business and it’s unfortunate because most of these young men are playing a game that they’ve been playing since their youth. They have a passion for it and it’s not as much a business for them.
“It’s unfortunate that some of these schools are all about strictly business but with Freeman and his staff, you don’t feel that at all,” he continued. “They want them to be better young men when they leave under their care and watch.”
From the first time the Shuler family stepped foot on campus, they could tell that these program was different. Don Shuler shared his early impressions when he stepped on campus. It’s hard to quantify just how special it is.
“It’s so private. When you step foot on campus, you feel successful,” Shuler noted. “It’s like a close family. You might not know anybody but when you’re walking around campus, you feel an aura about the place.
"I joke with Adon all the time that you know I still have some eligibility left. I might end up being teammates with you,” he said with a chuckle. “We just joke about it a lot. Just stepping foot on campus with the family, everyone always asks when we are going back.”
His last words of the interview were to let potential recruits know that Notre Dame is a special place. It goes far beyond the impact on the football field. It’s the bigger picture that makes South Bend special.
“You can’t go wrong with Notre Dame. You have to look at every aspect of it,” he said. “You will be set for life. I’ve been speaking with so many alumni from Notre Dame and great people. They are so open and willing to reach out even though my son hasn’t set foot in a classroom yet at Notre Dame.
“We have a chance to win a national championship and go to the NFL because it is great football and a great atmosphere,” Shuler continued. “For all the recruits who are thinking about it, no, sign up. They are great coaches over there. It’s definitely the place you want to be.”
Notre Dame has the chance to put together a generational class in 2023. Adon Shuler is a big part of that.
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