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Friday, November 1, 2013
Irish land ESPN 300 CB Watkins

By Damon Sayles

Friday was decision day for ESPN 300 cornerback Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne).

Nick Watkins
ESPN 300 cornerback Nick Watkins chose Notre Dame on Friday. He's ranked No. 79 in the Class of 2014.
And by lunch time, Notre Dame fans were able to rejoice -- and finally were able to let out a sigh of relief.

In an announcement at his school, Watkins announced what many Fighting Irish fans were hoping to hear, committing to Notre Dame over offers from Alabama, Texas, UCLA and Oregon. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback became the Fighting Irish’s 18th pledge and also became its top-ranked defensive player of the 2014 class.

Ranked No. 79 in the ESPN 300, Watkins has made a couple of visits to South Bend, Ind., to take in the Notre Dame atmosphere. Watkins consistently said he was excited about what the program brought to the table, but he never publicly called them a solid favorite. He made an official visit to Notre Dame with high school teammate and high three-star safety Payton Hendrix the weekend of Oct. 18.

“It was amazing. The game atmosphere, the tailgating, everything,” Watkins said. “It really surpassed my expectations.”

Bishop Dunne coach Michael Johnson said the Irish will be “getting a playmaker” and “a coach’s dream.” Watkins, in addition to being a shut-down cornerback, also lines up for Bishop Dunne as a wide receiver. His versatility is one of his strengths, but having the opportunity to focus on performing as a cornerback is something Johnson is looking forward to seeing.

“They’ll get a kid who can lock down anybody and a smart football player,” Johnson said. “I think his best asset is he’s just a ballplayer. He’s had a great season so far, and he’s the season’s not over.”

Watkins never tipped his hat, but Johnson said, in conversations with Watkins, that Notre Dame always was in the lead. Alabama closed the gap with his winning ways and SEC credentials, but the race was the Irish’s to beat.

“I think him going to Notre Dame on that official visit,” Johnson said, “that really helped make his decision.”

Watkins is the seventh ESPN 300 player to commit to Notre Dame’s 2014 class. He also is the second Texan to commit, joining high three-star defensive end Grant Blankenship (The Colony, Texas/The Colony).