How Notre Dame Accidentally Recruited Justin Tuck

Bob Davie and his staff discovered the former all-time leader in sacks at Notre Dame by going to the wrong school.

Bob Davie didn’t do many good things as the head coach of the Fighting Irish from 1997-2001, but one of the things he does get credit for is discovering Justin Tuck when he was a lightly recruited, raw prospect out of Alabama. It turns out that even that was an accident for Davie and his staff towards the end of their run at Notre Dame. Tuck, appearing on the “Like A Farmer” Podcast, shared that Notre Dame actually discovered him by accident by going to the wrong high school.

As Tuck tells the story, there were three different “Central High Schools” in Alabama at the time. The Notre Dame staff, whom Tuck didn’t mention by name, went to the wrong one and didn’t realize it until the game started. The Central High School they were watching was in different colors than what they saw on tape from the player they were actually trying to recruit—LeMarcus Rowell, who would end up at Auburn.

Here is Tuck telling the story.

It is very, very fitting for one of Bob Davie’s better achievements to have been a complete accident because either he or someone on his staff messed up and went to the school. In fact, nothing may be more fitting than Davie and co lucking into landing the former all-time sack leader in program history – until Isaiah Foskey broke the mark in 2023.

Justin Tuck redshirted as a freshman in 2001 and played sparingly in 2002 before breaking out in 2003. He ended up tallying 24.5 sacks and 43 tackles for loss. His 13.5 sacks in 2003 are still a single-season record at Notre Dame. The New York Giants ultimately selected him 74th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, and he became a two-time Super Bowl champion in New York.

One of my favorite “what ifs” for Notre Dame football is still what if Tuck returned for a 5th year in 2005. Notre Dame was inches short of an undefeated regular season during Charlie Weis’s first year in South Bend despite getting very little from any defensive end other than Victor Abiamiri. Just think about what kind of havoc a line bookended by Abiamiri and Tuck could have caused. But I digress. Heck, it turns out that Notre Dame was lucky to have Tuck on campus at all as it turns out. 

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