“I think Notre Dame really offered the best life after football,” said Wagner, who is interested in majoring in business or finance and already thinking about an MBA. “I think every program I was being recruited by offered the opportunity to go to the next level (for football), but Notre Dame offers the best education, and once I’m done with football whether I pursue the NFL or not I’ll be set up for life.”
He also found the small-town setting of South Bend appealing after growing up in Yellow Springs.
“I grew up in a village of less than a thousand people so going to schools in big cities, I can adjust to it, but I’d rather stay in the environment I like the most,” Wagner said. “Notre Dame is a small town, close-knit environment a little bit better for me.”
Then there’s the Marcus Freeman Factor.
A Wayne alum, Freeman was the defensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish in 2021, but he’ll be the head coach in 2022.
Wagner said Freeman and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens — another former Warrior — were heavily involved in selling Notre Dame starting when Freeman was still an assistant at Cincinnati.
“It’s almost like a dream come true,” Wagner said. “I had a great connection with him while he was at Cincinnati, and that relationship continued to grow as my recruiting process went on. He’s one of the best young coaches by far and I can’t wait to play for him.
“Having a support system is always important so having people there that know me, especially Coach Freeman who has been around the (Wayne) program for a while and can be a role model and a person to look up to, a person that knows me, was a big thing.”
Brown, a four-star tight end, committed to Alabama not long after the Crimson Tide beat Ohio State in the National Championship Game last winter.
“I was already (interested), and then just seeing them win the championship made me feel really good,” Brown, who had more than a dozen scholarship offers and considered LSU, USC, Notre Dame and Arizona State his other finalists, said at the time. “Then I had a great talk with Coach (Nick) Saban about a week ago, and after that I pretty much knew this is where I want to be and this is where I want to make my home.”
Trick, a three-star defensive lineman/linebacker, made his choice in June after making numerous unofficial visits.
“I think I really picked Miami just because that’s a perfect fit for me,” he said in June. “They have the great academics I’m looking for, but also a really good football program and a great coaching staff. I’ve really built a great relationship with them over the past year.”
Wagner, Brown and Trick were among more than a dozen prospects to sign Wednesday while many more members of the class of 2022 plan to wait until after Christmas to assess their options.
Along with the trio from Wayne are Alter linebacker C.J. Hicks (Ohio State), defensive lineman Derrick Shepard Jr. (Cincinnati) and defensive back Christian Kirenga (Illinois State), Centerville quarterback Chase Harrison (Marshall), Versailles offensive lineman Taran Tyo (Ball State), Piqua running back Jasiah Medley (Youngstown State) and lineman Caleb Lyons (Furman) and Springfield defensive back Delian Bradley (Harvard).
Multiple area coaches indicated players in the 2022 class are facing a dearth of available scholarships as a result of the NCAA’s decision to grant everyone who was on a roster during the pandemic season of 2020 an extra year of eligibility.
Among those still assessing their options are Springfield quarterback Te’Sean Smoot and Centerville receiver Cam Smith.
The transfer portal and players being granted the ability to play right away at their new school has also muddied the landscape as colleges assess the best way to fill out their rosters.