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December 29, 2011
KeiVarae Russell must have no problem with the idea of long flights home from college.
The four-star athlete from Everett, Wash., committed to Notre Dame today during a press conference at Mariner High School. He chose the Irish over Washington and also considered scholarship offers from Arizona State, Cal, Oregon and Stanford, among others.
Giving a verbal commitment cinches a relationship between prospect and program that dates back to the spring and included an official visit for the USC game in October.
"I love Notre Dame," Russell told IrishIllustrated.com after taking the trip to South Bend. "They've got a lot of tradition there, of course. But also just the feeling of the atmosphere of Notre Dame. They support their students. They make sure you graduate. They want you to be successful and students around there are successful. They don't just recruit anybody."
Russell is listed as an athlete because he can play slot receiver, but along with four-star Ohio native Will Mahone, the West Coast talent makes two running back commitments for Notre Dame in the Class of 2012.
The Irish now have 17 commitments total and adding Russell gives them nine four-star prospects. Notre Dame signed 10 prospects ranked four stars or better last cycle.
Once the 6-foot, 170-pound prospect enrolls in June he will be the only scholarship player from the state of Washington on the roster.
Notre Dame offered Russell in March after a conversation with tight ends coach Mike Denbrock, who recruits the West Coast. Denbrock continued his pursuit over months and stopped by for an in-home visit during the contact period prior to Russell's announcement.
Head coach Brian Kelly, who has yet to use an in-home visit with his newest commitment, followed that up with an extensive phone conversation to make a closing pitch.
"I think Notre Dame might be the one recruiting me the hardest," Russell told IrishIllustrated.com on Nov. 14. "They've been showing me the most love lately, the last few weeks here. Ever since I left that visit. They wanted me to take that visit even earlier than that. Notre Dame really wants me."
Now Notre Dame has its man.
Rivals.com rates Russell the No. 7 athlete in the country and No. 117 prospect overall. He will participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7.