Atkinson twins commit to Notre Dame
"[Josh] was sold 100 percent," George said. "He was going to do it whether I did or not. Coming into the trip I was thinking I was going to take some more visits before I make the decision. But my brother was sold coming in; I already knew he was going to commit. He went in to [talk to] Coach Kelly and I had time to think about it myself and I felt like it was the right fit for me as well."
The heavily recruited tandem from Granada High in Livermore, California, gave their oral pledge Sunday, becoming the 17th and 18th members of the 2011 class. Per NCAA rules, Kelly can't comment until signing day on Feb. 2. Both are rated as three-star athletes according to ESPN Recruiting. Irish tight ends coach Mike Denbrock was the lead recruiter.
Josh, a 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback, first delivered the good news on a day Kelly needed it most.
"It was kind of funny because we were both nervous at first," Josh said. "One of the dudes that works there said, 'So who wants to talk to coach first?' We didn't really say anything and were like, 'I don't know.' Then he said, 'Do you want to talk to him together?' I was like, 'You know what? That's not a bad idea.' But George was like, 'No, we should talk to him separately.'
"The guy was like, 'It's not like you guys are going to see the principal. It's not like you guys are in trouble.' It was funny. I just stepped up and said, 'I'll talk to [Kelly] first.'"
The brothers both said they consulted their father, George Atkinson II, a former Oakland Raiders defensive back, while they waited.
"He's proud, real proud of the decision," said George, a 6-2, 195-pound receiver/running back who chose Notre Dame over USC, Oregon, Miami, Alabama, Nebraska and California.
Josh had offers from Oregon, Arizona State, Washington, Arizona and Oregon State. And, from how his brother described it, he didn't have much of a poker face.
"I was telling some of the other recruits [on the sideline during the game] that Josh was going to commit and [Josh] played it off," George said.
When asked if he would have made the same decision without his brother choosing to do so first, George couldn't say.
"That's a good question," he said. "I'm not sure. I think life after football with that degree really helped persuade me. Coach [Tony] Alford talked to me about the graduation rate compared to other schools and it wasn't even close to anybody else that I was considering. That was huge for me."
The devastating loss to the Wolverines did little to discourage either of them.
"I'm real excited; I'm happy it's all over," Josh said. "We got to do a lot of things and meet a lot of people. We had a great time. Meeting the fans, getting to know the coaches a little bit more and the players, and just the whole atmosphere about Notre Dame was just positive."
Added George: "It was great to see how many fans were there. I was surprised afterwards how many fans were still there doing the [alma mater] after the loss. I was surprised with the fan base and how committed they are. That's good to know and see."
For Josh, it's good to know he won't have to answer further questions about whether or not the two will end up at the same institution.
"I don't have to answer that question no more," he said. "That's been like the question of my life. I swear, I had to answer that question over and over again the last two, three years."
Wes Morgan covers Notre Dame for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.