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Why Michigan lost the recruitment battle for Clarkston OL Rocco Spindler

CLARKSTON, Mich. The theme song Notre Dame blared from the speakers at the football stadium outside Clarkston High School on Saturday, while Rocco Spindler and his family – two of his sisters, his mother and father – all wore navy blue hats to celebrate.

The state’s best offensive lineman had made his choice. It was a “hair that shared one”, Spindler and his father would later say, but one that was anchored almost a year ago.

With media circling him, the 6-foot-4, 31

5-pound prospect told reporters about the promise he made to his grandfather. A Scranton, Pa., Born, the eldest Spindler often told young Rocco about the benefits of going to Notre Dame. About the school’s Irish heritage, its prestige and the history of the football program.

“He had only three days left (to live), and I told him so he could go in peace knowing before he died,” Spindler said. “I just said, ‘Hey, Grandpa, I’m going to Notre Dame. “He was so happy.”

Of course, the decision was not so cut and dry. Spindler had his homework to do, a process to go through – and many schools, some of the country’s most elite football programs, after him.

But when the list was lowered to five in May – Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and LSU – it became clearer for Spindler, a consensus four-star prospect ranked in the top 100 nationally among football recruits in the 2021 class.

“Some may say, ‘Why did you not just commit before?’ “It was a very tough decision,” admits Spindler.

MORE: 4-star Olympics Rocco Spindler, a UM target, commits to Notre Dame

Spindler praised Notre Dame’s business school, its reputation for developing offensive linemen for NFL players and winning history on the field. He believes the Irish are close to a breakthrough and could win a national title in the next few years.

“I could not be more proud that part of his decision-making process fulfilled his grandfather’s dream,” said his father, Marc Spindler. Spindler turned Notre Dame down in high school to go to Pittsburgh, and then went on to play for the Detroit Lions.

“But that is not the only reason why. He really went through this line after article. It just came back as the best opportunity to develop. “

Spindler said he completed his decision and informed Notre Dame “a couple of weeks ago” and asked the coaching staff to remain silent. He really wanted his decision to come as a surprise – and it was for some who showed up at Clarkston High Schools football stadium on Saturday wearing “Michigan” jerseys.

Wolverines were about to land Spindler, who praised the job head coach Jim Harbaugh, offensive line coach Ed Warinner and recruiting director Matt Dudek did when he recruited him.

“It was very tough,” Spindler said. “It was heartbreaking. Everything they said and I said was sincere. It was a very close decision. When I say splitting hairs, it was not easy. That’s why it took so long to get to this point. “

Spindler said he was impressed with Michigan’s attitude. They put in time and energy. They never tore another school.

“They really put their heart and soul into this, and today there is no doubt that it knitted,” said his father. “But I will say this: they handled the conversation as well as I could have expected, with respect and appreciation, and I sincerely hope they know that.

Then Marc Spindler continued: “I do not beat people; I do not piss people’s backs and tell them it’s raining. I’ll tell you exactly how it is. I was a Jim Harbaugh fan. Not necessarily a Michigan man, but I was a fan of Jim Harbaugh before he came to Michigan. Then I became a Michigan fan. And I will remain a fan of Michigan. Just not when they play Notre Dame, that’s all. “

Inside, said the younger Spindler, his heart was always drawn to Notre Dame. And the recruitment process confirmed just that; visits and games and success that went hand in hand with what his grandfather told him to grow up.

Spindler said there was also a temptation to leave the state to chart a new path, something his teammate at Clarkston, four-star offensive tackle Garrett Dellinger, did when he took over at LSU in June. And he had many of the same schools after him, including Michigan.

“Michigan and the rest of the schools gave it their best shot,” Spindler said. “I think Michigan is one of the best recruiting schools out there, with Matt Dudek, coach Harbaugh, Warinner – they really could not have done anything better. That’s exactly what I wanted, myself and my family too.

“I said I really wanted to go to Notre Dame and I will keep that promise. Now I did it. “

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