A familiar name impresses the masses; a quality teacher and communicator impress the head coach.
After working with Scott Booker for two years, Irish head coach Brian Kelly followed the arrows, and they were pointing within.
“We probably could have had a long line of suitors for a position on Notre Dame’s staff, and we went with a guy with MAC experience,” said Kelly Friday morning when he introduced Booker as his new tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.
“When you’ve been in it as long as I have, you know when you have the right fit. Part of it is chemistry, personality, knowledge of Notre Dame, love of Notre Dame…all those things go into the book before you even start to look at how they interact with players.”
Booker, 31, who coached five seasons in the Mid-American Conference, including four at his alma mater, Kent State, fit all of Kelly’s criteria.
“Scott was an intern, so he didn’t get a chance to do a lot of work on the field,” Kelly said. “But he had a great relationship with Michael Floyd, and there were a lot of players that really tooted his horn relative to the opening on the staff.
“Not that it’s a popularity contest to get a staff position. But there were so many things, and I worked with him on a day-to-day basis. He was in the staff room every morning; the first one in, the last one to leave. It was an easy decision to name Scott to our staff.”
Likewise, it was an easy decision for Booker to pursue a spot on the Notre Dame staff.
“Every day I was able to work at the best university in America, so it was easy to come to work and build a relationship with the players and the coaches,” Booker said. “I understand (Kelly’s) philosophy and how it pertains to this university, and also his philosophy on coaching our offensive players and recruiting.”
Booker had been a defensive guy prior to his arrival to Notre Dame. He helped develop two NFL draft picks in Jack Williams (fourth round of the Denver Broncos) and Usama Young (third round of the New Orleans Saints) at Kent State.
The more time Kelly spent around Booker, the more he realized that the Irish had a young man in the business who not only understood the game, but, more importantly, how to communicate with people, which translates well on the recruiting trail.
“Any time that you are easily building relationships with your own players, and again, he didn’t know any of the players when he got here. He had to build those relationships,” Kelly said.
“When you know that someone can articulate and communicate and is hard working, those are the elements of recruiting. There’s a lot of cold calling out there in this business. He’s not afraid to hear no, and he’ll keep pushing through the process. That’s what I picked up, and that’s why I’m very confident that he’ll be a great recruiter.”
In addition to coaching tight ends, Booker’s most important job will be trying to revive an Irish special teams that has been hit and miss through the last two seasons.
“Special teams is the only group that brings the offense and defense together, so like coach said, it will be a group effort by the coaching staff, all nine of us, and he’ll be involved in special teams,” Booker said.
“Our priority is to improve in special teams. It’s a third of the game, and we have some dynamic players that can do a lot in special teams. I think we’ve shown that through our first two years.”
Booker is thrilled to be back in the two arenas he enjoys most - the football field and the recruiting trail.
“I enjoy being around the players, I enjoy teaching, I enjoy leading…It was definitely a transition to be off the field,” Booker said. “As a defensive back coach, you have to evaluate receivers and what they’re trying to do.
“So it was a seamless transition to look at offense in that way. If you look at Coach Kelly’s résumé, he was a defensive coach when he first started. Obviously, he’s more of an offensive guy now, and the same with Chuck Martin. He’s been on both sides of the ball.
“Any time you’re able to get experience on both sides of the ball, you’re a better coach and a better teacher for it.”
Booker is expected to recruit Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and parts of Florida to be determined.
“One of the advantages I have is that I was a Division IA coach before, so I was out recruiting in a lot of areas,” Booker said. “So it wasn’t a new thing getting out there and recruiting.”
The least of Booker’s tasks will be learning how to sing the company line. He already has that down.
“It comes from the top - Fr. Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick, and Coach Kelly,” Booker said. “They have a shared vision of having this university preeminent in everything it does, whether it’s academics or athletics.
“Everything we do, we want to be at the top, No. 1, and it takes a special place to take that burden on, and it takes special people to take that on and do it. Graduating 98 percent of our players involves a lot of people to do that.
“It’s special to be involved with our players. We have some great young men who are part of our program. Notre Dame makes it a special place.”