Feb. 4, 2015

They sent in signed National Letters of Intent from Hackensack, New Jersey, and Pocatello, Idaho.

They sent in signed National Letters of Intent from Granada Hills, California, Las Vegas, and New Lenox, Illinois.

When National Signing Day concluded Wednesday, 24 high school student-athletes drawn to the gold standard of college football formed the University of Notre Dame football team’s Class of 2015.

Josh Barajas, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound linebacker from Andrean High School in northwest Indiana, said the incoming class of Irish recruits has already forged a closeness that will serve it well on the playing field.

“We’re going to be a dangerous class,” Barajas said. “We’re really close. We talk to each other every day. That’s so important to already have a togetherness. A lot of us played in bowl games together, and there’s no doubt that also really helped us become a stronger group.”

Nicco Fertitta, a 5-9, 175-pound defensive back from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, said the bonds of brotherhood already in place will be a foundation to Irish glory.

“We talk every single day,” Fertitta said. “Whenever we’re around each other, it feels like we’ve been friends for 10 years. If we’re already this close off the field, imagine how good it’s going to be on the field. That’s really special.

“We’re all going to really meld well together. We have the same attitude toward winning and working hard. We’re definitely going to win some national championships. Our togetherness will translate into greatness.”

Brandon Wimbush, a 6-2, 212-pound quarterback from St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, New Jersey) said members of the Shamrock Soldiers Class of 2015 were in constant communication from the first few verbal commitments.

“We have strong bonds already built,” Wimbush said. “We have a group chat, and we do that every day. That’s allowed us to build great relationships. This is a going to be a very strong group coming in. The chemistry we have will translate onto the field. You’re playing for these guys.”

Emotions ran high among the recruits as they signed up to start building their Irish legacy.

“This is Notre Dame, it’s the pinnacle of college football,” Fertitta said. “I didn’t want to play anywhere else. I knew my decision right when they offered me. It’s a dream come true. I’ve been committed for quite a while, so I didn’t see the big deal in signing day. Then, once I signed the paper, it was like a rush through my body, like, wow, I’ve really accomplished my goals. It’s going to be a good four years.”

Barajas was also overjoyed at signing with the Irish.

“This is one of the best days of my life,” Barajas said. “I never thought this would happen. It’s really surreal for me right now.”

For Barajas, Notre Dame was a clear choice among the power schools that were recruiting the 6-foot-3, 212-pound defensive force.

“The big trio is the thing that really drew me to Notre Dame – academics, football and tradition,” Barajas said. “You can’t get such a high quality education, such an amazing football experience and such unique traditions from any other school.”

Wimbush said Notre Dame’s commitment to education was a major draw for him.

“It will be great to have a degree that will make an impact for the next 40 or 50 years of my life,” Wimbush said. “That’s very appealing, to graduate with a degree from Notre Dame. Nothing is guaranteed, but the chances of my life being better in the future is much higher with a degree from this University.

“This means a lot to me. It’s what you dream of, signing on the dotted line. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s an honor to sign with Notre Dame.”

Notre Dame’s prospective student-athletes praised the way the Irish coaches and staff handled the recruiting process.

“During the recruiting process, (defensive line coach Mike Elston) told me he wasn’t going to be pushy,” Barajas said. “He said he wasn’t going to be calling every day. That right there told me he was confident in his recruiting abilities.

“Then, when I went to campus … Notre Dame is so special,” Barajas said. “It really sells itself. It’s a one-of-a-kind school. You can tell they really believe in what they have, and that they’re confident in that. It was like no other school.”

Wimbush said Irish quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur was exceptional with his recruitment.

“I was impressed by the whole process,” Wimbush said. “Obviously, Notre Dame does everything the right way. There’s no fault in the recruiting process. I enjoyed every bit of it and appreciated the chance to build those relationships.”

Wide receiver C.J. Sanders, a 5-10, 185-pound standout for Notre Dame High Cchool in Sherman Oaks, California, agreed that Notre Dame’s recruitment was outstanding.

“There was so much to love about Notre Dame, the academics, the football, the tradition,” Sanders said. “(Tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Scott Booker) and everybody did a great job with the recruiting process. There wasn’t pressure. They allowed me to have fun and be a kid. When I came here for my visit, it was so awesome. There really is nowhere else like this place.”

Sanders will arrive on campus with a unique live experience.

Sanders played the role of young Ray Charles in the movie “Ray” and was in the television shows “Six Feet Under,” “Judging Amy,” “Cold Case,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Saved.”

“I grew up in California, and had some great opportunities,” Sanders said. “I learned a lot from those opportunities. I remember being on the set (of “Ray”) with Jamie Foxx. He talked to me about the value of hard work and being committed. Learning a playbook is a lot like learning dialogue. You have to put a lot into it. You have to be willing to work hard.”

Sanders also loves the closeness of the Irish recruits.

“We were on group chat every day,” Sanders said. “We’ve already become a very close team. That closeness is going to lead to greatness on the football field. I’m every excited about what this class can do.”

— by Curt Rallo, special correspondent