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Notre Dame recruited former OU safety Tony Jefferson ‘heavy’ out of California

IMG_9992by:Tyler Horka07/26/22

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Former Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson likened his recruitment out of Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake to “picking a prom dress.” In the same analogy, Notre Dame would have been one of those stunning dresses way too far out of the purchaser’s price range.

Jefferson, a class of 2010 prospect, originally committed to Stanford. But when Cardinal coaches inquired about his SAT scores, he retracted his commitment. He committed to UCLA and USC before ultimately winding up at Oklahoma. There was a period in which Urban Meyer wanted him to play running back at Florida, too.

Prom dresses. Colleges. Same thing, right? There are plenty of them to go around.

Brian Polian recruited me heavy out of Notre Dame,” Jefferson said on the Inside the Garage podcast. “He wanted me there bad. But just like Stanford, (Notre Dame) brought up the SATs. Once they said that, it was a wrap. I was not doing that. I was not redoing my SATs.”

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Jefferson wasn’t the first to go that direction in a Notre Dame recruitment. There have been plenty to go the same way in the decade-plus since, and there will be plenty more to come. It doesn’t mean those players never work out wherever else they go, though. Jefferson is proof of the contrary.

Jefferson was a freshman All-American at OU. He finished his college career with 258 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, seven sacks and eight interceptions. He had 11 tackles in a 30-13 loss to Notre Dame in 2012. He recalled laying a heavy hit on Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson in that game.

Jefferson obviously never suited up for Notre Dame. But in a way, his ties to the blue and gold have come full circle. Not only is he teammates with former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton with the Baltimore Ravens, but the two play the same position. They’ve taken a liking to each other since Hamilton was selected with the No. 14 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.

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Jefferson, 30, went undrafted out of OU in 2013 because of a hamstring injury that hampered his performance at the NFL combine. He signed an undrafted free agent deal with Arizona and became a regular starter for the Cardinals. Playing with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu molded Jefferson into a true professional DB.

“I got to build off their energy,” Jefferson said. “They taught me a lot about covering. When I got in the league, I wasn’t a big cover guy. They took the time out of their day, after practice, to help me with technique.”

Now he’s shedding some of that wisdom on Hamilton, who turned 21 in March.

“For a rookie, in our defense, it’s not that easy,” Jefferson said. “I feel like Kyle has done a good job picking it up. I like to let the rookies settle in themselves at first. Get used to it. But then I view everybody on my team like a brother.”

Brothers often go to different colleges, like sisters pick different prom dresses. Things always seem to have a way of working out regardless.

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