As one of Notre Dame's first commits in the 2022 class, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Catholic Central's Nolan Ziegler has been on board with the Fighting Irish for quite some time, but his connection to the program goes much deeper than that.
Ziegler's grandfather, Tim Sullivan, was an All-American outside linebacker who also won a National Championship at Notre Dame. Ziegler's great uncle, Fred Trosko Jr., was a quarterback for the program, and his grandmother was a cheerleader along the sidelines during her college time in South Bend.
“I've been going to games since I was a baby, so I always knew that they were my favorite team,” Ziegler told Irish Breakdown. “When I started getting recruited and getting offers, I always knew that Notre Dame was my dream school. There is a lot of family history there. I'm a big, huge Irish fan.”
With all those connections to Notre Dame, Ziegler has been tied to the program ever since he was born, so once he started receiving college attention and scholarship offers for his play on the field, the 6-4, 210-pound athlete had a decision to make -- carry on the family mantle as a Golden Domer or forge a new path at a different university.
Ziegler chose the former, and there was never really any doubt.
“I just knew that I was never going to end up somewhere else, so I didn't really care about getting more offers or my ranking going up,” Ziegler stated. “I know where I'm playing, and I'll prove myself there.”
During the recruiting process, Ziegler landed offers from programs across the Midwest before eventually committing to Notre Dame in August. Since that time, the Fighting Irish pledge has refrained from posting any additional offers on social media as a sign that he's locked into the program and anxious to begin his college career in South Bend, a place he's been many times before.
“I've been on campus quite a few times,” Ziegler said. “I was able to get down there before the Clemson game, the first Clemson game. We walked around campus and met some people.”
On paper, Ziegler is a perfect fit for the program as an intelligent prospect that has long family ties to Notre Dame, but he's a valuable and intriguing player for the program on the football field as well. At 6-4, Ziegler has great size as a safety in the secondary, but he also has the size to come up in run support, which makes him an ideal fit for the Rover position.
In 2020, Ziegler helped lead the Cougars to a second straight state championship, and his squad had to go through a lot of run-dominant offenses in the process. As a result, Ziegler had an opportunity to pile up the tackles and finished with 120 for his nine-game junior campaign in addition to six forced fumbles and one interception.
After such a productive season, Ziegler mentioned that Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman sees him as a versatile defender at the next level, one that could even eventually play the Vyper spot depending on how he continues to grow and develop. Freeman is very familiar with Ziegler, having offered him back when he was still at Cincinnati, so he knows the Irish commit is a great fit for his defense.
In terms of his development, Ziegler is focusing the most on his drop back, reading an offense from a cover two formation and improving his man coverage skills so that he will make a smooth transition to the college level.
And as for when Ziegler will next be on campus, the four-star prospect is hoping to visit in June pending the return of the visit period. Ziegler also expressed an eagerness to meet each of Notre Dame's 10 others commits, especially Traverse City (Mich.) Central linebacker Josh Burnham. Ziegler and Burnham are the only two ND commits from Michigan at the moment, and they also share the same birthday of March 17, so they've been in touch quite a few times and are both excited to get to work when the time comes.
To comment below be sure to sign up for a FREE Disqus account, which you can get HERE.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel
Follow me on Twitter: @EricRutterSI
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook