Claypool signs with Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Abbotsford Panthers football star joining storied football program

Chase Claypool is all smiles after officially joining the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football club on Wednesday.

Chase Claypool is all smiles after officially joining the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football club on Wednesday.

It could be a long time before Abbotsford witnesses an athlete like Chase Claypool again.

He did it all on the gridiron from gravity-defying catches to 50-yard touchdown throws, 80-yard kick returns, punishing quarterback sacks, and jaw-dropping interceptions.

He’s also a pretty good basketball player, scoring 51 points earlier this week for the Panthers.

But it was Claypool’s football skills that drew media, fans, friends, and family to Abbotsford Senior Secondary on Wednesday.

Claypool officially signed on the dotted line with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and is set to take his talents to South Bend, Indiana.

It’s a far cry from his humble roots playing community football with the Abbotsford Falcons under the guidance of coaches Chel and Khul Sanghera.

Claypool starred for the Falcons and the high school Abbotsford Panthers for years, collecting more than 1,200 yards receiving with 13 touchdowns in his Grade 11 year. Those numbers, along with his skill and athletic potential, drew interest from all across the United States.

A total of 14 NCAA Division 1 teams contacted him last year, including powerhouses like Oregon University, the University of Michigan and Mississippi State. But, it was the lure of the tradition, history and education at Notre Dame that made Claypool verbally commit to Notre Dame last year.

He stepped up his game even more in his Grade 12 year, hoisting the Panthers on his back to lead them to their first provincial title game since 1984. He was also named the top AA football player in the province for 2015.

Back in Grade 10, Claypool said his goal was just to get the chance to play football at university. After Wednesday’s announcement, he’s set to suit up for one of the most storied franchises in college football.

Claypool said it felt right the moment he visited the Notre Dame campus.

“As soon as I was there, I knew I wanted to be there,” he said. “Just walking through the halls and feeling the tradition was amazing. The coaches and players made me feel like family.”

He said the staff at Notre Dame has big expectations for him this season.

“They said I have big upside and a lot of potential as an early player,” he said. “They believe I can play pretty early, if not my first year. They want to work with me on the change of speed because it’s a lot faster, and a different style of play. If I can get used to that, I could be looking at playing pretty soon, but I’m not going to get my hopes up too high for anything. I expect to play in my second year, but if it happens in my first I’ll be really happy.”

The Fighting Irish staff called Claypool early on Wednesday morning to welcome him to the program, and had high praise for him in a video they released later that day.

“He’s an absolute physical specimen,” said Notre Dame offensive co-ordinator Mike Sanford. “When he walks in the building you can tell he’s different.”

“He’s just the best football player on the field in every situation that he’s put into, and his team used him in a number of different ways,” said assistant coach Mike Denbrock.

“He’s a guy that’s going to bring an incredible amount of attitude to our football team from the standpoint of being competitive and being the best at what he does. You see a guy who could do about anything anyone would need to do to help a team on the football field be successful.”

“When it’s all said and done, I think he’ll probably be one of the best players to ever come out of Canada,” Sanford added.

Claypool heads to training camp with the club after writing his provincial final exams in June. Notre Dame kicks off the 2016 schedule against the Texas Longhorns on Sept. 3.