Aaron Lynch's first day of classes Tuesday at Notre Dame were likely spent daydreaming about the weeks leading up to his last-minute arrival in South Bend.
The 17-year-old defensive end, heavily pursued by most major football programs over the past two years, settled on the Irish Saturday after a brief affair with Florida State. The Cape Coral, Fla., native visited over the weekend and the trip reaffirmed those initial feelings when Lynch first committed to ND last July.
"I guess what it came down to was I needed to go where my heart was," he said earlier this week, after remaining silent since the U.S. Army All-American Game a couple of weeks ago.
Looking back on the madness that saturates college recruiting, like most teenagers, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder's heart and head weren't always in sync, he said. Perhaps the only constant was a steady barrage of outside opinions pounding his inner ear.
"Man, it's been crazy," said Lynch, one of the crown jewels of coach Brian Kelly's second recruiting effort at Notre Dame. "It's been hectic. It put so much stress on me. It was real stressful."
Eventually, the spotlight he thoroughly embraced began to burn.
"At first I was like, 'This is awesome,'" Lynch said. "I couldn't believe what was going on, really. As soon as I started getting into it I was like, 'Man, this is killing me.'"
The Island Coast High School star, who enrolled at ND this semester in order to take part in spring practices, decommitted in November and chose the in-state Seminoles. He explained that, at the time, he felt Notre Dame's 3-4 defensive alignment didn't suit him.
"At first, I didn't really catch on to what [Notre Dame's] defense was all about," Lynch said. "I just knew it was a 3-4 defense. That's why I committed to Florida State. I committed to Florida State because I thought it was the next best choice. I also wanted to stay close to home. But my mom was like, 'We're all going to move, wherever you go. Wherever you go, we'll be there.' So I had to take some time and think it over."
According to Lynch, Notre Dame, especially assistant coach Tony Alford, never thought about letting the pass-rushing force go without a fight.
"They didn't leave me alone and I'm glad they didn't," he said. "They kept calling me, calling me, calling me. I was like, 'They really want me.' I really can trust these Notre Dame coaches. Like coach [Tony] Alford, you wouldn't believe how close we were. He was like a father."
And Kelly lived up to Lynch's expectations of the ideal head coach.
"The guy, he's unbelievable," Lynch exclaimed. "He's an unbelievable head coach. He just gives off a different vibe. Some head coaches, I'm not saying any names, but some can be stuck up and not in your best interest. Coach Kelly is a player's coach; he's here for the players' best interest.
"He's here to make sure these kids are going to be successful in life. Some coaches, they just want you to go to their school and play for them and be a number. He wants us to come here, graduate and win a BCS [title]. That's why he's the real deal. I think he's the real deal."
Kelly's overwhelming success on the recruiting trail, despite a substantial hit Tuesday when four-star defensive end Stephon Tuitt announced he had switched his verbal commitment to Georgia Tech, has Lynch giddy about the upcoming season.
Snagging an abundance of coveted defensive recruits, Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco have a deep well of soon-to-be ready rookies from which to draw. The Irish (8-5), which started 1-3 this past fall, made significant strides on that side of the ball to close the 2010 campaign with four straight victories.
Irish fans are glowing about the latest haul. Lynch said it's a "BCS winning" type of group.
"You've got guys like Ishaq [Williams] -- he's going to be playing outside linebacker," Lynch said of the prized recruit out of Brooklyn, N.Y. "That's going to be a big, fast, athletic outside linebacker. We've got Kyle Brindza, a kicker, and I watched him kick from the [30-yard line] and kick it out of the end zone. [Defensive end] Ben Councell is a crazy athlete. It's going to be a turning point. That's what it is."