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Notre Dame's Recruiting History In Arizona

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Long-snapper J.J, Jansen, originally from Arizona, is in his 12th season in the NFL.
Long-snapper J.J, Jansen, originally from Arizona, is in his 12th season in the NFL. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame’s verbal commitment from Phoenix (Ariz.) Pinnacle offensive tackle Tosh Baker this week was a coup on several fronts.

One, he is the No. 51-rated player in the nation per Rivals for the 2020 class. In head coach Brian Kelly’s 10th recruiting cycle at Notre Dame, that is the third highest among offensive line recruits, behind only Quenton Nelson in 2014 (No. 29) and Tommy Kraemer in 2016 (No. 41).

Second, Baker is the first offensive line recruit among the 10 players committed so far for Notre Dame, which is coming off the heels of one of the nation’s best offensive line hauls in 2019 with a four-man group led by tackle Quinn Carroll.

Finally, Notre Dame tapped into a location where not many prospects sign for the Fighting Irish. Per our research, only 16 players, including several walk-ons, have suited up for Notre Dame who hail from the Grand Canyon State. Baker would be the third to sign from the state under Kelly, joining wideout/return man Davonte Neal (2012), who would transfer after his freshman season, and cornerback Cole Luke (2013).

From 1973-85 Notre Dame inked six players from Arizona, but no one from there who has played here was drafted by the NFL — although one is now entering his 12th season in that league.

Here is our countdown of the top 5 players from Arizona to play at Notre Dame:

5. Jim Sanson, 1996-99 (Scottsdale)

As a freshman in 1996, his 39-yard field goal as time expired at Texas enabled Notre Dame to defeat the No. 6-ranked Longhorns in Austin. He had a roller-coaster career with 15 missed extra points and 28 of 47 overall on field goals (6 of 13 as a senior), but that moment at Texas was one of the best for Notre Dame in the 1990s. In 1998 he also had game-winning field goals late in the contest against Purdue (31-30) and Army (20-17).

4. Dave Mitchell, 1977-78 (Phoenix)

Knee injuries ended the late fullback’s football career, but he played a huge hand in the march to the 1977 national title when as a third-team fullback he and fellow third-team quarterback Joe Montana helped rally the Irish to a dramatic fourth quarter 31-24 win at Purdue, with Mitchell scoring the winning touchdown on a five-yard run with 1:39 left.

He also tallied the lone TD (nine yards) in a hard fought 16-6 win over Michigan State the next week and opened the scoring (four yards) in the Green Jersey Game 49-19 win versus No. 5 USC. Mitchell rushed for 303 yards that season and also caught 10 passes .

3. Steve Belles, 1985-89 (Phoenix)

Recruited as a quarterback in head coach Gerry Faust’s final season, Belles became a valued utility reserve at running back and receiver — while also taking some snaps at quarterback — on the 1988-89 teams that won a school record 23 straight games.

Especialy vital were his contributions on special teams, highlighted by stopping a fake punt by No. 1 Miami near midfield when the score was tied at 21, setting up Notre Dame’s go-ahead score in the 31-30 triumph for the eventual national champs.

2. Cole Luke, 2013-16 (Scottsdale)

Coached by Belles in high school, Luke became a three-year starter at cornerback. In his sophomore year he intercepted four passes and broke up 11 while looking like a sure-fire pro and thriving against some of the nation’s best receivers. His game faltered later during some dark days for the overall defense and he went undrafted, but he finished his Irish career with 152 tackles, eight interceptions and 24 passes broken up

1. J.J. Jansen, 2005-07 (Phoenix)

The walk-on long-snapper has maximized his abilities like few others in Notre Dame history, or college football for that matter. He latched on with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent in 2008 and has played at Carolina since 2009. In February 2016, he signed a five-year $5.5-million contract extension with the Panthers.


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