Notre Dame Fighting Irish Media showcased each Class of 2022 commitment with a social media minisode Wednesday that was unparalleled in both its design and execution at this university.
WE’RE A LONG WAY FROM DOMER DAN
Previous attempts at capturing the energy of commitment day have ranged from head-scratching to “ok, I suppose.”
Notre Dame has produced some sort of Signing Day content since 2012. In those nascent attempts, fans were served high school clips and some coach interviews during a livestream. Perhaps Jack Nolan would narrate over the highlights (2013) or analysis was solicited from recruiting specialists (2014) or the commitments would pose in front of a static camera and spit out short biographies (2015).
Of course, not much can be worse than filming conference calls, which Notre Dame did in 2016 (without Facetime!), 2017 and 2019. How many times would content consumers want to hear a position coach ask a freshly signed athlete if he was going to class today or if his mom was going to make a special meal?
Spiritually, the 2018 content is most closely aligned with this year’s offering — narratives that often wax poetic about potential and are prone to hyperbole. But it was still just watching cut-up high school tape for 2 minutes. Any school’s communications department could manage that.
Last year, the ongoing COVID restrictions resulted into a series of “day-in-the-life” vlogs of commitments.
A HALF-YEAR IN THE MAKING
While undertaking 21 commitment videos is undoubtedly a collaborative effort, those I spoke to Wednesday often cited one individual as the mastermind: Cody Baker, a producer, innovator and designer for Fighting Irish Media.
Baker started with a proof of concept last spring; some of those efforts were integrated into a teaser trailer released Monday:
Baker and his team used local residents — many with little or no acting experience — in regular haunts (such as Cook’s Pizza, Exclusive Studios, South Bend Farmers Market) to weave these William Wallace-esque tall tales around the 21 commitments.
The minisodes released Wednesday included a mixture of locals, FIM employees and surprise cameos from celebrities.
To stay within compliance, Notre Dame employees would say the commitment’s name and other identifying information.
Then viewers would hear tall tales from a mixture of made-up characters...
...and from celebrities, both affiliated with Notre Dame...
...and with seemingly no university connection.
The commitments’ parents got input on scripts too, which is how you get quips like this:
...and surprising facts such as this:
The coda of each piece is an actor asking the camera, “DID WE GET HIM?” and new coach Marcus Freeman assuring us that, yes, the prospective student-athlete has signed his letter of intent.
APPEARANCES, CAMEOS AND EASTER EGGS
A partial cast and cameo list:
- Barbers were from Exclusive Studios: Julio Rodriguez, Grant De La Paz, Nate, Jay
- Boston J (Bruins hat): J Aquila
- Boston Jeff: Jeffrey Meyers, a digital media specialist at Box Out Sports
- Boston Rachel: Rachel Pincus, associate athletics communications director at Notre Dame
- Boston Robbie: Robbie Lightfoot, director of partnerships at Box Out Sports
- Bowling alley women: Ana Wolfermann and her Notre Dame roommates
- Chess guy (with tie): Rabbi Kuppel Lindow
- Cycler (aka Peloton woman): Kimberly Borza Donaldson, senior director athletics advancement at Notre Dame
- Diner man (left): Tim O’Connor Sr.
- Diner man (right): Paul Bertha
- Tattoo artist: Wicho
- Teacher with glasses: Kristin Baker, theatre arts teacher at Elkhart High School
- Teacher in teal: Michael Henderson, English teacher at Elkhart High School
- Notre Dame celebrities: Steve Beuerlein, Jerome Bettis, Miles Boykin, Tim Brown, Jac Collinsworth, Mike Golic, Mike Golic Jr., Bennett Jackson, Indi Jackson, Khalid Kareem, Fr. Pete McCormick, Lyric Medeiros, Mario Morris, Commander Kelechi Ndukwe, Brady Quinn, Jessica Smetana, Hannah Storm, Golden Tate, Joe Theismann, Jerry Tillery, Chris Zorich
- Celebrities: Bearded Blevins: Jon Blevins, Marco & Matt McClure; Kurt Angle, Tom Rinaldi, Sheamus, Ryan Stewman, “Stock trading guru Des,” Les Stroud
"When using a board without coordinates, the players must remember that they have to have a black square in the bottom left corner. If they have a white square in the bottom left corner, that means the board is sideways. And, of course, that's no good."— Jude (@ndjrs) December 16, 2021
Our red-headed fable-teller has enjoyed his ice cream and it's now time to join Marcus Freeman for a haircut at Exclusive Studios. (Also pretty sure that @acornoAk in the other chair!) #NDFB pic.twitter.com/AuIJt4a52l— Jude (@ndjrs) December 16, 2021
Emily Ragan, a NDFIM associate producer, shadowed Marcus Freeman during his first few days. She was present when Freeman flew out to Washington to visit with wide receiver commit Tobias Merriweather and captured a unique coda to his Irish Rising minisode.
This story has been told before, but this time it gets a large audience: Eli Raridon’s dad, Scott, was an offensive tackle for Brady Quinn — which leads the FOX analyst to provide a funny quip:
Not to be outdone by Quinn, Joe Theismann has his own moment of levity in the Tyson Ford commitment video:
This Irish Rising content does not come about without collaboration among athletics, FIM, compliance. It also required buy-in from the various small businesses and schools that had to make time for various camera crews between May and December.
It’s proof that Notre Dame can succeed with ambitious ideas, and should always be pushing the envelope in this Name, Image and Likeness era to start helping the student-athlete with his brand. Fans should also love it because it’s colorful and funny, and provides a good primer for knowing each of these players before they take the field.
Bravo to all those who worked on this one. I cannot wait to see what you all come up with next year to top this. And thank you to everyone on Twitter who helped me identify names and places. I didn’t get them all, but all of these actors — from the “bowling ball” kids on up — deserve high praise for what they contributed.