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Notre Dame

Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Former Bishop Luers standout Jaylon Smith signs his letter of intent to play football for Notre Dame as his father, Roger Smith, smiles next to him.

Class in session: Pair of area stars begin at Notre Dame

Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Former New Haven basketball star V.J. Beachem signs his letter of intent to play for Notre Dame while his parents BerDonna and Vic Sr. look on.

– V.J. Beachem doesn’t know where the time has gone, but he is OK with everything feeling like it is moving at warp speed.

The former New Haven basketball standout, along with former Bishop Luers football star Jaylon Smith, is scheduled to begin summer classes at Notre Dame today.

“It seems like just yesterday we were playing in the regional championship, but now I’m about to take off and go to college. It has really flown by,” said Beachem, who moved into his dorm room Sunday. “I wouldn’t change anything about it. It has been a great experience. I got to learn some things.

“Hopefully, it is not the end of me learning.”

Smith moved in Saturday, the day after his birthday, and he also feels like time flew by as he gets ready to start college.

“Starting off freshman year, I didn’t really believe when everybody said that high school flies by, but it really has,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to the future.”

Beachem and Smith join the Irish as part of two highly rated recruiting classes.

Smith comes in as part of the football team’s freshmen class that was ranked No. 3 by and No. 5 by 247Sports. Beachem’s class was ranked No. 14 by 247Sports and No. 20 by

Smith, who said he will get his No. 9 jersey today, is the more decorated of the two Fort Wayne athletes joining Notre Dame.

The 6-foot-3, 228-pound linebacker was named Mr. Football, the Butkus Award winner, and he earned All-American status from Parade magazine and the U.S. Army.

Smith, who won four Class 2A state titles with the Knights, had 75 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks as a senior. He also ran for 1,200 yards with 17 touchdowns.

“What makes him a special player is how big and athletic and fast and aggressive he plays the game,” said Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston, who handled Smith’s recruitment to Notre Dame. “He’s a student of the game.”

Smith will arrive at Notre Dame 18 pounds heavier than he was at the end of Luers’ season.

Michael Ledo, president and CEO of AWP Sports where Smith trained, said the linebacker went from 210 pounds to 228 since the end of last season because of a new dedication Smith made to working in the weight room.

“Before he was just such a dominant athlete in this area, physically, it was never like he was lazy or whatever. He never made it a priority,” Ledo said. “Then our new strength coach, Kevin Bush, and him really hit it off and had a strong relationship. I think Kevin had an ability to really challenge him and push him to his max potential.”

Smith was able to hold onto the gains he made while running track for Luers, and he said the decision to not play basketball in his final season at Luers helped him get ready to play for Notre Dame.

“I love the game of basketball and playing with (former Luers standout James Blackmon Jr.) and all of those guys, but I kind of had to sacrifice and look at the future,” Smith said. “I’m really trying to go in and compete. I figured giving up basketball allowed me to dedicate myself more to the strength and conditioning part of football.

“I’ve gotten very, very strong. I really just added that type of muscle that is needed at the next level. I’m going to continue to do that here at Notre Dame.”

Beachem joins the basketball team along with fellow four-star prospects Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia as well as two-star prospect Austin Torres.

Beachem averaged 21.4 points, 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists as New Haven won its first sectional title since 1996 last season.

Beachem spent the time between the end of his season, a 63-57 loss to Carmel in the Class 4A regional title game, getting ready for the summer workouts he will go through with his new team.

He has focused on being able to pass Notre Dame’s conditioning test, which includes having to run 10 suicides in 10 minutes.

“I’m very excited about it. It is a new challenge,” Beachem said. “I get to work on my weaknesses even more and try to become a better player and try to make my team player. I’m going to come in and contribute any way I can. I’m excited about this summer, getting up there with the guys and working hard.”

Smith and Beachem are also ready to work hard in the classroom.

Smith will take three classes during the summer semester.

“I have a math, writing and physical education class,” Smith said. “I like writing. I took a creative writing class my senior year at Bishop Luers. I learned a lot of new stuff on how to critique things. I’m looking forward to see what they have in store here at Notre Dame.”

Beachem will take business statistics and sociology during the summer semester.

“I took a statistics class my last semester of high school, so I know a little bit about that,” Beachem said. “I don’t really know much about sociology. From what I hear about it, I’m pretty interested in it.

“It’s a new beginning for me in life and a new beginning for me in my studies and basketball. I’m very excited about it. I get to meet some new people and work to reach my dreams.”