South Bend's Ira Armstead committed to visiting UVA Cavaliers
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - For so many local football stars, the assumption is that they'll one day don the blue and gold. But every so often, they enter Notre Dame stadium as the opposition.
"To go and see the guys again and see them play live, I can’t wait," said Adams High School quarterback Ira Armstead.
Only catch is, he's talking about the visiting Virginia Cavaliers.
Armstead is in his senior season leading the Adams Eagles just two miles down Twykenham Drive. As of a June commitment, he's set to spend his next four years in Charlottesville, and gets to visit with his future team for the first time since that decision.
“They’re very family-oriented, very close," he said about the Virginia program. "The players are very close and love to have fun. They work very hard and that’s what I loved about it.”
Of course there is bound to be some tension when rooting against your hometown team. That tension is a given when your own coach is a former Irish player himself.
“At the end of the day, it’s God. Country. Notre Dame," said Adams head coach Antwon Jones, a defensive lineman for Lou Holtz in the mid-90s.
Armstead and Jones said they've had some good-natured ribbing throughout the week.
"Virginia’s coming up here to give a good showing, but in the end the Irish will win," Jones said. "So I’ve let him know that. I told him I’d cheer for Virginia any other week besides when they’re playing the Irish.”
Despite the trash talk, Jones knows the commitment was the right decision for Armstead, a soft-spoken athlete, but one who Jones says is always ready to make things happen for his teammates.
“He’s the team leader," he said. "He’s not the most vocal leader, so his is all by action and they’re going to follow that. They feed off of him. He’s their leader, so it’s very important that he’s doing whatever he can to battle and be consistent.”
That showed in Armstead's decision to commit so quickly, before letting his recruitment distract from his final season in South Bend.
“I just wanted to get me out of the way because it’s kind of selfish and I’m not a selfish person, so I wanted to get that out of the way to focus on the guys and get them places.”
And that team-first mindset is one he felt he had in common with those in the UVA program, and its culture that makes him confident in the Cavaliers going forward.
“Seeing them in the weight-room or on the field, no one’s walking or anything like that," Armstead said. "Coaches don’t even have to yell or anything. It’s just the culture there, how the players are and the leadership there. It’s headed in the right direction.”
It will be a while before Armstead gets a crack at Notre Dame himself.
The Cavaliers will host the Irish in 2021, while their next trip to South Bend would be in 2024.