Justin Yoon returned to Notre Dame on Sunday with an open mind.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound kicker from Nashville, Tenn., wanted to keep it that way when seeing the Irish for the second time in two weeks, with a visit to Northwestern on tap for the next day. Even though Yoon, who attends Milton Academy in Massachusetts, wanted to give Northwestern an honest look, he also wanted to make sure his family soaked up the Notre Dame experience on this visit.
Yoon made the trip to South Bend with his parents and brother, spending the bulk of it with special teams coach Scott Booker, kicker Kyle Brindza and long snapper Scott Daly.
"We were there just two or three hours and I wish it was longer," Yoon said. "Before I left I told coach Booker that I'd be calling him the next day. I felt Notre Dame was the place I should be."
Yoon maintained that visit to Northwestern but didn't get the same vibe as Notre Dame around campus. A visit to Stanford earlier this month also didn't match up, with Yoon's camp visit focused more on football than the campus in Palo Alto. Stanford also took a kicker in the interim, effectively bumping the Cardinal off the list.
Notre Dame had a tangential link to Yoon before he turned into an Irish recruiting target via freshman offensive tackle Alex Bars. Yoon attended Montgomery Bell Academy for his freshman year and was in Bars' academic class before transferring to Milton Academy where he repeated the ninth grade.
What separated Notre Dame from Northwestern and Stanford most may have been Booker, who gave Yoon the attention he wanted from a coaching staff as he decided among three of the nation's top universities.
"I think that was part of it, he was at least 75 percent of it," Yoon said of Booker. "But you can't just go to a school because of the coaches. It's got to fill all the priorities on your list. First of all, these three schools were all great academic schools, that's why I looked at them. All the coaches were great, but especially coach Booker."
Yoon hopes to return for his official visit early this fall, perhaps for the season-opener against Rice.
Yoon said Booker has told him to be ready to compete for the open kicker job after Brindza graduates next spring. The Irish also have punter Tyler Newsome on scholarship, with the Georgia product a potential option. Already one of the program's most prolific specialists of all-time, Brindza will leave big cleats to fill. He also helped get Yoon here in the first place.
"Kyle Brindza was a major support. He helped me get through it and made it feel like Notre Dame was a special place," Yoon said. "He made it feel like at Notre Dame you're not just a kicker, you part of the family. I really feel that.
"I also talked to Scott Daly, another impressive guy. All those guys have charisma. They're amazing men. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to be with. Hopefully I can get out and talk to guys and help them get to Notre Dame."