ANGOLA — Bishop Luers’ Jaylon Smith ended speculation Saturday on where he would play college football.
Smith, who is entering his senior season with the Knights, announced that he orally committed to Notre Dame after the Redefining Athletic Standards camp at Trine University.
Smith said he informed Irish coach Brian Kelly of his decision Friday.
“It feels good, just getting it out of the way, so I can concentrate on my senior year,” Smith said of making the announcement.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker is a five-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.
He is also ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker and No. 4 overall prospect by Rivals.com.
Smith was named to the Class 2A All-State team after he helped the Knights win the state championship. He had 55 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and nine sacks last season.
Smith chose Notre Dame over USC and Ohio State. His older brother Rod Smith is a running back with the Buckeyes.
Smith, who ran some drills at the camp under the guidance of Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston, said one of the appeals to playing for the Irish is being able to stay close to home.
“Every athlete wants to stay close to their mother,” Smith said. “That really played a big part in it. And just the opportunity, I really don’t have any fear in any athlete. I think I could play where ever I chose to.”
Smith decided to make his decision public Saturday at the camp, which featured former Bishop Luers and Purdue star and current Dallas Cowboy Anthony Spencer and was run by AWP Sports Performance, because he was ready to stop the process.
“It had been so stressful, getting all of these letters,” said Smith, who trains with AWP.
“I have about 2,000 letters right now in a box, and I’m really glad that is about to end somewhat.”
He said Notre Dame’s academic reputation helped seal his decision.
“I sat down with one of (Notre Dame’s) academic advisers, and they laid the statistics out, and it was crazy as far as African-Americans, 99 percent of African-Americans graduate from there,” Smith said.
“You can go down the list, Ohio State, Illinois and Alabama, and none of them were close.”
Mike Ledo, president and CEO of AWP, has worked with Smith since after the linebacker’s freshman year.
Ledo said Notre Dame is not just getting a great athlete but also a great leader. He compared Smith to current Irish linebacker Manti Te’o.
“It has been an honor to work with the young man,” Ledo said of Smith.
“His character exemplifies why he is making the decision he is making. It has nothing to do about playing in the sun. It has nothing to do about the girls on campus. This young man is making a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision.
“The thing with Jaylon is the leadership. … He is all about building his teammates. It’s like he is not even a superstar.”
Smith’s decision to come to Notre Dame adds to a linebacking corps that will lose Te’o to graduation after this season.
Linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese will also be seniors this season, but each still have one more year of eligibility.
Smith will likely remain at outside linebacker with the Irish.
“It was just a matter of, they have, I believe, three starting linebackers leaving my incoming year,” Smith said.
“It will be a great opportunity.”
Smith is the 13th player to commit to Notre Dame’s class of 2013.