One after another, the tweets came. Quarterback Drew Pyne to Notre Dame at 1:10 p.m. Offensive lineman Jack Conley to Boston College at 5:07 p.m. Offensive lineman Jack Stewart to Michigan at 7:29 p.m.
When was the last time three football players from a Connecticut public high school committed to such high-profile programs in one day? Never?
“I sure can’t remember it happening,” said Lou Marinelli, who has won a dozen state championships over three dozen years at New Canaan.
Wake up the echoes. Hail to the conquering heroes! Hail to Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary statue. Surely, this was choreographed.
“Wasn’t planned in any way,” said Pyne, sitting inside Marinelli’s office Tuesday.
“Completely unplanned,” Conley said.
“The feedback was crazy especially from students in the school,” Stewart said. “Three kids committing like that in a small town in Connecticut? It was chaos. Everybody’s like, did you plan it? No, we did not.”
Stewart said Pyne, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound sophomore recruited by major colleges since the eighth grade, approached him in the school hallway Monday.
“Drew goes, ‘Listen, dude, I’m committing to Notre Dame,’ ” Stewart said. “I’m like, ‘Wow,’ The previous day I had talked with coach (Ed) Warriner, Michigan’s offensive line coach, and I told him, ‘You’re my top school.’
“After Drew committed, Conley comes up to me in class and says, ‘I’m going to BC 100 percent.’ I’m like I’m going to Michigan! It was crazy.”
There’s some real beauty in this. We’ve seen enough kids putting caps on a table, screaming into microphones, hyping the recruiting thing to nauseating degrees. Second, the three made this piece of state football history happen from a public school. Nothing wrong with prep schools, but nothing wrong with the publics either. Third, along with Taisun Phommachanh from Bridgeport and Avon Old Farms committing to Clemson over the weekend, it again demonstrates that, yes, Connecticut has major college talent.
“When you look at people who are playing now from Connecticut, specifically the FCIAC, it’s amazing,” Marinelli said. “I could go on and on.”
Starting with New Canaan’s Zach Allen at BC and Lucas Niang and Michael Collins at TCU, he did go on and on …
Marinelli said Pyne was in a meeting with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly when the subject of uniform numbers arose. Pyne told Kelly he’d like No. 10. Asked why Pyne told him because Brady Quinn was his idol. Kelly punched some numbers into his phone, the voice on the other end asked the question again. Pyne gave the answer about his idol.
“This is Brady Quinn,” the voice said.
It looks like Pyne will be No. 10.
Pyne saw Georgia play at Notre Dame and the Irish beat LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Stewart, 6-5, 280 pounds, has never seen a Michigan game in person. He visited Ann Arbor for the first time a couple of weeks ago.
“My dad and I planned a trip around it,” Stewart said. “We did the full tour.”
They went to Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and TCU. Texas. Stewart’s sister is at West Point. One of his dreams was to play at Army and go into the Army.
“But after I went to Michigan, I knew,” Stewart said. “At Michigan, I saw the potential I have. The coaches made me realize that.”
Conley, 6-7, 315, said he walked onto Chestnut Hill, looked around and told himself, “The facilities, the academics, I can thrive here.”
BC coach Steve Addazio, of course, rose through the college ranks after coaching at Cheshire High.
“He said the toughest players in the country come from Connecticut,” Conley said.
“His family are New Englanders, they’re huge Patriots fans, they have a house in Rhode Island,” Marinelli said. “BC was the first school to offer Jack. He said it came down to Pittsburgh and BC. I think BC was a no-brainer for him.”
Playing in the FBU middle-school league, Conley and Stewart were not teammates. They were too big, so they were split up.
“Freshman year, Conley and I grew that connection, right and left tackle,” Stewart said. “He is super-smart when it comes to football. He does a lot of film research. I’ll be in the library in school and he’s always watching film, even out of season.”
In return Stewart said he admires Conley’s relentlessness.
When Pyne says, “football means a lot to my family,” he isn’t kidding. His great grandfather George played for the Providence Steam Roller, his grandfather George played for the Patriots when they were in the AFL and his uncle Jim played in the NFL. They’re the first family to play three generations of pro football.
Drew’s dad, who played at Brown, is one of the more influential business people in sports. He was COO at NASCAR, president at IMG and now CEO of Bruin Sports Capital.
“My dad is great, he allows us to make our own decisions,” Pyne, 17, said. “But he likes to go against things at first. Like if I said, ‘I’m going to Notre Dame,’ he’ll go, ‘Drew, are you really sure?’ He makes us think things through.”
Pyne, who starting piling up SEC offers in middle school, said it was difficult saying no to some schools, especially Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma. So why Notre Dame?
“The whole thing,” said Pyne, who’ll enter Notre Dame in 2020. “The atmosphere, the education, faith, how important football is at Notre Dame, how important Notre Dame is to everyone who ever goes to Notre Dame, my family and me being Irish Catholic.”
Pyne pointed to quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees, who played for Kelly at Notre Dame, as important in the process.
“He has the experiences there, both good and bad,” Pyne said.
“I told Mike Collins he was crazy to leave Penn for Texas Christian,” Marinelli said. “He’s a great student, a great kid, but he also wanted a big-time football experience and now he’s fighting for a starting berth this spring. Drew has done things for us at such a young age. I think it’s our job to prepare him best we can for what he’s going to see. I think we’re going to step it up a little more than last year.”
What about — wink, wink — missing an assignment and letting the future Notre Dame quarterback get sacked a time or two? Michigan and BC fans would be thrilled.
No, never, Conley and Stewart said.
“I hope not, but I already told (Stewart) we can’t watch Week 1 in the same room,” Pyne said of the Michigan-Notre Dame game on Sept. 1. “We’re talking smack already.”
“I’ll always be a Ram,” Conley said, “but when we’re not strapping it up together anymore we’ll be rivals. We’re still brothers.”
Brothers who enjoyed an historic seven hours.