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Thursday, January 9, 2014
Dickerson stays close to home

By Erik McKinney

Defensive tackle Matt Dickerson (San Mateo, Calif./Junipero Serra) made a difficult call when he committed to Notre Dame in early August, selecting it over a long list of programs that extended offers. He made an even more difficult one on Thursday, as the four-star defender pulled back from his pledge to the Fighting Irish and instead committed to UCLA.

Usually in the case of a decommitment, either one school has dropped the ball in recruiting the committed player or another has done such a good job in recruiting him that he can no longer say no. But Dickerson's situation was different.

The decision was the result of some difficult circumstances dealt to Dickerson and his family. On top of the fact that Dickerson wasn't able to play a single snap during his senior season due to a small fracture in his vertebrae, several of his family members have been dealing with health problems. His mother is largely physically disabled, while his father was diagnosed prostate cancer in mid-December.

Serra head coach Patrick Walsh said Dickerson didn't inform the coaches or the team until recently.

"Matt was real respectful to the process of our season and going through the playoffs," Walsh said. "He didn't really let me know about it until the season was over, but he was dealing with it during that time frame and over the holidays. It really shook him up."

Walsh stressed the decision had nothing to do with the way Notre Dame handled Dickerson's recruitment.

"He loves Notre Dame and would love the opportunity to play for Notre Dame," Walsh said. "Notre Dame and coach [Brian] Kelly were awesome through the process.

"But with his mom dealing with the physical things in her life and the fact that he couldn't play his entire senior year, it just broke him down, as a true competitor. It's a hard thing for him to deal with, but the family didn't put any pressure on him to deal with it. He just felt like this was the right thing to do."

Walsh said the decision to commit to UCLA was made because Dickerson feels the Westwood campus is close enough to where he and his parents can get to each other relatively quickly, either on a quick flight or a few hours by car. Walsh added that the Bruins were one of a few schools that continued to push for the 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive tackle.

"It's very difficult for him because Notre Dame made such a big commitment to him, and that's a testament to Notre Dame and how they recruit. I have the utmost respect for them," Walsh said. "What made it the most difficult is the great relationship he has with coach [Mike] Denbrock and coach Kelly. There was really nothing anybody could say on that end. Usually something happens -- some drama or some event -- but he just said once his dad got sick, he couldn't take anymore."

This marks the second year in a row that UCLA will gain a Notre Dame defensive tackle commit who chose to stay closer to home to be near an ailing relative. In the 2013 class, Notre Dame signee Eddie Vanderdoes got out of the letter of intent and enrolled at UCLA.