The 2011 Blue and Gold game wasn't Nick Baratti's first trip to South Bend but it was his most memorable so far. Baratti, a 6'2", 215-pound athlete from Spring, Texas had been to the Notre Dame campus as a youngster and again for junior day this season. This time was different; Nick left the weekend having verbally committed to the Fighting Irish.
"The people on campus were great," said Baratti, of his mid-April visit. He went on to say, "The fans were so excited, people were asking me for my autograph after I committed and they didn't even know who I was." His anonymity will not last long. When Baratti is at safety he hits like a truck—add in his 4.4 speed and he is a collision in the making that can separate would-be receivers from the football.
The excitement wasn't limited to the Notre Dame fanbase—Baratti's mother was relieved and excited. "Notre Dame was her choice all along, she was so happy for me. My dad was in China on a business trip and I couldn't tell him until the next day, but he was really excited too."
Baratti felt that he fit right into the Irish defensive system after meeting some of the players and watching the spring game. "Coach Martin was great, the whole thing was a great experience," Baratti said.
When asked if he was aware that he was about to be part of something special, joining forces with Tee Shepard and Ronald Darby, Baratti quickly stated, "Those guys are great, we talk two or three times a week, we are really building a friendship. Being in the same defensive backfield as those guys is going to be something incredible."
While Baratti, who also plays quarterback at Klein Oak High School, will still play both positions as a senior, safety is where Irish fans can expect to see his skills at work. He has an explosive takeoff that he attributes to his long legs and constant training. While the explosiveness is natural, it takes a lot of hard work to keep it fine-tuned. "I have to keep working at it, there are other guys out there working hard too, I don't want to let up and be out-worked," Baratti said.
Consistent with all of Brian Kelly's recruits, Baratti brings with him a 3.8 GPA and works with Meals on Wheels, delivering food to the elderly. While he won't be an early enrollee, he is still eager to get back on campus. He will make an official visit the weekend of the Michigan State game.
If Nick Baratti was impressed with the fan enthusiasm at the Blue and Gold game, he will be in awe when he witnesses the celebration of the 1966 national championship squad, which will be held that weekend.
Along with his speed and grades Baratti brings with him a leadership quality that is another common trait with Kelly's recruits. Baratti, just like Darby and Shepard, seems to be mature and levelheaded. The Notre Dame defensive unit just keeps getting better with these quality additions.
Questions from the Readers
When I posted that I was talking to Nick Baratti tonight, I got some emails from readers that wanted to ask Nick a few questions. Nick was kind enough to reply to these readers' comments.
Pete Wurdinder: Will you train your last year to prepare you for your position at ND with your high school coach and still keep your team's best interest in hand?
Nick Baratti: I will still be playing full-time QB at my high school but we are a spread team so it is not like I am a pocket passer and do not train like the rest of our skill players. But I will be playing a little bit of safety too in most key situations.
Willy Frazier: What single thing made you choose Notre Dame? Were you a fan before?
Nick Baratti: Yes, I was a fan before high school and have always had a little thing for them. But the biggest thing that made me choose ND was because of the coaching staff and how dedicated they are and how there is no doubt that they will be winning a national championship soon and I love their swagger and dedication to the program.
Jeremy Lobenthal: What is your goal when you step foot on Notre Dame's campus?
Nick Baratti: To mostly get a great education and to work past my standards to be the best I can be on and off the field.
Thanks to Nick Baratti and to all of our readers for making this interactive.
Jim Sheridan is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.