Alexander Ehrensberger is an old-world D-lineman for Notre Dame

The redshirt freshman, a former Dreamchaser from Germany, is a role model for European prospects.

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Alexander Ehrensberger is a 2020 signee out of the recruiting service founded by Brandon Collier (left).

Brandon Collier

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Brandon Collier and his fourth annual Dreamchasers bus tour pulled into Notre Dame’s campus a couple of weeks ago, there was no doubting the main attraction.

It wasn’t Touchdown Jesus or even Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly, who would give a 30-minute talk to the group of 30 European high school hopefuls from Premier Players International.

Instead, it was redshirt freshman defensive lineman Alexander Ehrensberger, the pride of Dusseldorf, Germany, and a 2020 signee out of the rapidly growing football recruiting service Collier, a former CFL defensive tackle, founded in 2017.

“They came this summer and watched us work out one day,” said Drew White, Notre Dame’s senior middle linebacker. “All of those kids that were out there were looking at Alex as a guy who made it, and it was so cool to see.”

Ehrensberger, who spent six months as a high school sophomore at Maine’s Fryeburg Academy, had two tackles for loss, including a sack, in the 2020 opener against South Florida. Rated by ESPN as the No. 1 European prospect in his recruiting class, Ehrensberger is listed at only 255 pounds as he continues to pack muscle onto his 6-7 frame.

A former Dreamchaser himself, Ehrensberger already has made an impact with his all-out style and infectious personality.

“Oh, he’s great, man,” new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman said. “Gosh, he’s a high-effort guy. He’s an energy-provider. He just goes hard and is a yes-sir, no-sir kid. Sometimes he can be methodical because he’s such a pleaser, but he’s done a great job, and he’s getting a lot more reps.”

The defensive meeting room has become accustomed to seeing Ehrensberger and his non-stop motor highlighted during post-practice cutups. White and senior safety Houston Griffith noted the way Ehrensberger will chase Irish receivers until the whistle blows.

“You continue rolling the clip, and he’s running 50 yards down the field, trying to catch Avery Davis after he caught a pass,” White said. “He brings absolutely full, 100% effort to every play. Everyone respects that. That’s the fastest way to gain respect around a program like this.”

Nicknamed “The German” — what else? — Ehrensberger hasn’t taken long to incorporate certain American lingo into his daily discourse. For instance, he’s fond of saying “hella” when special emphasis is required.

“He says ‘hella’ a lot,” White said. “ ‘We’re running hella.’ I’m like, ‘I know you got that from here.’ Everyone loves Alex. It’s an amazing story, and he’s an amazing teammate.”

Ehrensberger showed enough potential at PPI’s European camp circuit that Mike Elston, Notre Dame’s defensive line coach and assistant head coach, made a special trip there in the spring of 2019. Recently elevated to recruiting coordinator, Elston made an early connection with Collier and his skeleton staff that should open the door to future signings.

“I already had a prior relationship with coach Elston when he came to Germany to visit, not even to visit Ehrensberger but to check out our workouts,” said Collier, 35. “That relationship has grown, and he trusts me and trusts my opinion.”

Freeman, during his four-year run as defensive coordinator at Cincinnati, saw 6-9 PPI product Lorenz Metz sign as a defensive lineman out of Germany in 2018 and later become a starting offensive tackle for the Bearcats.

“I met coach Freeman a few years back,” Collier said. “Overall Notre Dame is a great fit for most of these European guys because they value education just as much as football. That’s kind of what Notre Dame preaches.”

Since debuting in 2017 with 13 hopefuls visiting 10 schools in nine days, the Dreamchasers Tour has grown exponentially. This summer, Collier and two former teammates took turns driving two separate groups of 30 European prospects to most of the top college football programs.

The first batch of hopefuls was here in June, followed by another group in July.

“There’s a lot of kids,” Freeman said. “I remember at Cincinnati, they came around, and it wasn’t as many kids as now. It’s a credit to that entire program for the way they’re building these young guys and finding them.”

As Ehrensberger might say, American football in Europe seems to be growing hella fast.

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