It’s just assumed that the best players in Alabama will always opt for either Alabama or Auburn. There’s plenty of reason for that; the two SEC powers tend to rule the SEC West, they get their pick of the best recruits in the state and jostle for a spot in the national semifinals or, at the very least, a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Yet occasionally an elite recruit gets away, sometimes even far away. That’s what makes Notre Dame’s newest punter commit such a head turner.
Three-star punter Jay Bramblett, the No. 2 ranked player in the nation at his position, per 247 Sports, committed to Notre Dame on Wednesday. Notre Dame landing an elite punter isn’t a shock in itself, but landing a punter from less than 10 miles from Alabama’s Bryant-Denny football stadium is.
Bramblett is the special teams star for Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa. The school sits fewer than 15 minutes from the University of Alabama by car and roughly eight miles away (or a long training run) by foot. Alabama had expressed interest in Bramblett, too, it just didn’t go so far as to offer a scholarship. Notre Dame did, and Bramblett decided he was ready to take the Fighting Irish up on it.
“A big thing that coach Polian and everybody showed us was that the education is a four-year education but it’s going to stick with you for 40-plus years,” Bramblett told 247 Sports. “It’s going get you places. That was really a large part, to me, about how special that part is and how big of a deal that will be in the future. And then, really, the tradition. It’s Notre Dame. Everybody knows Notre Dame. Nationwide, everybody knows it. It’s one of those football programs.”
Sure, Notre Dame is the pinnacle of college football tradition, but then again, so is Alabama. The Crimson Tide surely felt they were in pole position to land Bramblett’s signature because of their proximity to his roots.
Apparently that wasn’t enough. The Early Signing Period is still months away, but Bramblett doesn’t seem to be offering any reason to believe he’s going to change his mind. That’s good news for Notre Dame and perhaps a surprise to all the college football fans back home in Tuscaloosa.