Urban Meyer recruited LeBron James to play for Notre Dame football.
Before he was the best basketball player of his generation, LeBron James was a pretty good wide receiver at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s in Akron, Ohio.
LeBron could have been an All-Pro tight end if he decided to make football his chosen profession but he’s made the right decision to play basketball. But before he made his mind up, he was being recruited by one of the best college football coaches when Urban Meyer was recruiting him to Notre Dame.
Before Meyer became a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State, he was a top assistant at Notre Dame under Bob Davie and knew there was something special the first time he saw LeBron on tape.
Meyer was ready to offer him on the spot.
“I walked into the school, the coach, Jim Meyer, great guy, probably in 1998 or ’99, and he said, ‘Hey, come here a minute. I want to show you this. What do you think of this kid?’” Meyer said. “I started watching the video, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ He was six-foot-whatever, obviously real big back then, too.
“He asked me what I thought and I said, ‘I want to offer him right now. Who is he?’”
That was probably the last time LeBron could walk around anonymously. Now, the six-foot-eight global superstar can’t go anywhere without a horde of people hounding at every turn. In some respects, LeBron might be longing for his high school days when he could blend in with the crowd, albeit a foot above the crowd.
“The bell had just rung for class, and I stick my head out the window and you can tell who he is because he’s a foot taller than everybody else walking down the hallway,” Meyer said. “He said, ‘Hello, coach, I’m LeBron James.’ I said, ‘I’d love to have you. Why don’t you come up to Notre Dame because we’d love to talk with you?’ He said, ‘I appreciate that.’
“Then we sat back down and the coach told me, ‘He’s done. You don’t know who that is?’ I said no. ‘That’s the next Michael Jordan.’ I’m just like, come on.”
Meyer went into deeper detail about recruiting LeBron on the Move the Sticks podcast.
What if LeBron played college football at Notre Dame?
If LeBron didn’t bypass college and go directly to the NBA, he would have gone to Ohio State to play basketball. But it’s fun to think about what would have happened if he went to play both sports for one year at Notre Dame.
There’s no doubt in my mind, LeBron would have been a Hall of Fame-caliber tight end if he wasn’t one of the two or three best basketball players to ever do it. As great as Bo Jackson was as a two-sport star, I bet LeBron would have been in a different stratosphere with his size, strength and athleticism.
Despite 103 receptions, 2,065 yards and 23 touchdowns as a high school receiver, LeBron would have transitioned to tight end because of his size and strength. He’d still be a total mismatch at 6-foot-8 with his blend of speed and leaping ability. He’d be unstoppable in the red zone. Imagine Jimmy Graham in his prime, but that prime lasting a decade. That’s what LeBron would have been as a football player.
Meyer has recruited college football legends such as Tim Tebow, Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa, Chase Young and Percy Harvin, but LeBron might be the biggest fish that got away.