College football recruiting can be defined by many things, but two of the most important go hand in hand; relationships and pipelines. Most programs have found that the easiest route for better relationships and better pipelines goes right through their home state. For the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, that way of life is generally not going to work out very well.
Indiana talent doesn’t come close to states such as its neighbor to the east in Ohio - or Florida, Texas, California, Louisina, Georgia, and so on. However... it’s not devoid of great talent either.
And while the state of Indiana can hardly be considered a hotbed for recruiting, the city of Fort Wayne is even further from the mind.
But should it be? Recent history (25-30 years) suggests that Fort Wayne has had quite a bit of talent enter the college and pro ranks. A better question is why Notre Dame isn’t cleaning up in the Summit City? Do they even need to, or have they done just fine so far?
Here is a list of every player since 2002 to come out of Fort Wayne that has been ranked in the top 10 of the state and where they went to college:
- DE Anthony Spencer (Bishop Luers) Purdue Boilermakers
- SS Bernard Pollard (South Side) Purdue Boilermakers
- DE Josh Gaines (Northrop) Penn State Nittany Lions
- WR James Hardy (
HomesteadElmhurst) Indiana Hoosiers
- WR Selwyn Lymon (Harding) Purdue Boilermakers
- FS Artis Chambers (Snider) Michigan Wolverines
- WR John Goodman (Bishop Dwenger) NOTRE DAME
- LB Jordan Barnes (Homestead) Oklahoma State Cowboys
- TE Tyler Eifert (Bishop Dwenger) NOTRE DAME
- LB TyQuan Hammock (Bishop Luers) Michigan State Spartans
- RB Rod Smith (Harding) Ohio State Buckeyes
- RB Remound Wright (Bishop Dwenger) Stanford Cardinal
- DT Tony Springmann (Bishop Dwenger) NOTRE DAME
- LB Jaylon Smith (Bishop Luers) NOTRE DAME
- SS Drue Tranquill (Carroll) NOTRE DAME
- DB Justin Tranquill (Carroll) Western Michigan Broncos
- WR Austin Mack (Bishop Luers) Ohio State Buckeyes
- DE Auston Robertson (Wayne) Michigan State Spartans
- QB Aiden Smith (Carroll) Northwestern Wildcats
- WR Mac Hippenhammer (Snider) Penn State Nittany Lions
That’s 20 players from Fort Wayne over the past 17 recruiting cycles that were ranked in the top 10 in Indiana.
Notre Dame only landed five of those players. Three of the five (Smith, Eifert, and Tranquill) have laid claim to the title of “Captain,” and two of the five (Smith and Eifert) are considered to be one of the best players at their position in Irish history.
Not too bad.
So why isn’t there more emphasis being placed in Fort Wayne? Besides those players, the city is home to Trai Essex of the Northwestern Wildcats and Pittsburgh Steelers, Rod Woodson of the Pittsburgh Steelers (and one of the greatest NFL players in history), and Vaughn Dunbar of the Indiana Hoosiers and New Orleans Saints (Dunbar has a special place in my heart after he rolled into a football camp with a ’64 Impala that was AMAZING).
Fort Wayne is the EXACT distance from South Bend as Chicago, and to be quite frank... Chicago isn’t producing the talent it once did.
Shouldn’t Notre Dame be landing about half of those players? They got five, but what if they would have signed ten? What if the next five were; Spencer, Hardy, Wright, Mack, and Hippenhammer? Would the program have performed better this past decade and a half?
I suppose the biggest thing for me, is that recruiting is hard. Like REALLY hard - and when you’re Notre Dame and you absolutely have to recruit nationally, why wouldn’t you zero in more on the home state talent and make a pipeline out of a city?
Notre Dame has struggled over the past few cycles with signing its in-state talent. Maybe putting a fence around Fort Wayne would be a good first step in reclaiming its territory.