Notre Dame football has a devoted matchmaker in receivers coach Chansi Stuckey

SOUTH BEND — Chansi Stuckey, Notre Dame football’s Renaissance Man of a wide receivers coach, achieved another career milestone in early July.
“I officiated my first wedding,” Stuckey said this week in a wide-ranging phone interview with the South Bend Tribune. “Yeah, it was pretty gnarly.”
Wait, what?
Stuckey, 39, spent just one season (2021) on staff at Baylor football, but the connections he makes run deep. When former Bears receiver RJ Sneed married the former Kate Puentes at a resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, the couple didn’t just invite Stuckey and his wife Summer.
Chansi Stuckey arrives:Late father's example drives Chansi Stuckey as he starts new coaching role at Notre Dame
They asked Stuckey to preside over the ceremony.
“I did a lot of preparation because that’s a big honor,” Stuckey said. “I was detailed up. It was like game day for me. Watching YouTubes, writing vows, giving stuff to them, the prayer, all of that. It was a big, big deal, not only for him but for me too. I just wanted to do right by them.”
The bride is a two-time Baylor national champion in acrobatics and tumbling. The groom set career-bests of 46 catches and 573 yards as a senior in his only season with Stuckey as his position coach.
Does that mean Stuckey, whose post-NFL playing experience also includes stints as a New York TV host and Hollywood film actor, has found a new offseason revenue stream?
“I’m open,” he said with a laugh. “The first one was free, but all the other ones now … Cabo, that wasn’t a cheap trip, but it was worth it.”
Perspective on Northwestern hazing scandal
Stuckey, who seriously pursued Christian ministry as a career path before going into coaching in 2019, leads with his heart.
He did that for two seasons at Clemson, where his former position coach, two-time national champion Dabo Swinney, remains one of his prime mentors; as well as at Baylor, a Baptist-founded university in Waco, Texas; and now for a second season at Notre Dame (Catholic).
Clemson Chansi Stuckey celebrates with fans after the Tigers 27-20 win over Florida State Saturday September 16, 2006 at FSU's Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fl.
As the legal system sorts out the unspeakable events at Northwestern, where a toxic culture of hazing and racism allegedly was allowed to fester for decades, Stuckey doesn’t shy away from the topic when it is raised.
“I have a saying: ‘Right is right if no one’s doing it, and wrong is wrong if everybody’s doing it,’ “ Stuckey said. “This is all in our world. If someone is doing something that you know is not right, it does not mean that you have to participate. We just want to love on our guys here, treat people right and respect them and how they are and how they think.”
Along with that acceptance comes a difficult ask. It’s one that Stuckey holds himself to, even running through the same innovative drills as his receivers during practice.
“There’s a fine line between love and accountability,” Stuckey said. “Just because I love you does not mean I’m going to let you get away with not doing it correctly. Ultimately, it’s for their benefit if you think about it: ‘I love you enough to tell you the truth’ so that they’ll work and you get the results.
“We’ve built that starting last year. It was hard at first because everyone had to adjust. Now that the standard is the standard, they see the older guys and how I treat them and how I coach them. They say, ‘OK, I have to go through this process to get where I need to be.’ It teaches the guys how to think.”
For Notre Dame’s quartet of highly rated freshman receivers, including spring-game star Jaden Greathouse and fellow January enrollees Braylon James and Rico Flores Jr., the mental hurdle is as formidable as anything they will be asked to do physically this season.
“One of the things most young people struggle with is how do I think?” Stuckey said. “This is a totally different animal when you come to big-time college football. I cannot think and operate the same way I did at a high school in Texas as I do at Notre Dame. Everything has to be ratcheted up a notch.”
In the era of the transfer portal and NIL, patience has become increasingly rare. Lorenzo Styles went from Notre Dame’s leading returnee at receiver heading into 2022 to Ohio State’s defensive backfield after transferring in April.
“I tell everyone, ‘Worry about what you’re given; worry about your lot,’ “ Stuckey said. “There might be someone that comes in as a freshman and he is a baller. OK, you guys are going to the same place. Don’t get discouraged by what he has going on. You just walk your walk, walk your road because you’re going to get there too. It might take you four years, but you’re ultimately going to get there.”
Tapping into Tim Brown, Derrick Mayes and other greats
To expedite that process, Stuckey has launched a mentoring program in which he pairs former Notre Dame receiving greats with players on the current roster.
So far Tim Brown, the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner, has been matched with sophomore Tobias Merriweather and Derrick Mayes, who went to Super Bowls his first two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, has been matched with junior Deion Colzie.
Along with former Notre Dame receiver Amir Carlisle, hired in March as director of player development, Stuckey will work through the list and make the connections as he sees fit.
“There’s no draft,” Stuckey said. “Personality types, what each person needs, I try to connect them within that aspect of it. Sometimes it’s the opposite personality. Sometimes it’s more the father figure or sometimes it’s just, OK, these guys will really do well together and I think he will receive information from him. Because it does matter who the information comes from.”
The vision is for that pipeline to include upper-class mentors for each new freshman arrival as well. That means Class of 2024 recruits such as four-star receivers Cam Williams (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) and Micah Gilbert (Charlotte) and former Oregon State commit Logan Saldate (Salinas, Calif.), who flipped to Notre Dame on Friday, will have a direct line through, say, Merriweather to Brown as well.
“That’s already wheels in motion,” Stuckey said. “Those out-of-school mentors … have so much wisdom and knowledge. It’s invaluable.”
Once he makes the introductions, Stuckey also might have to push younger players out of their comfort zone just to get the conversation going. That was the case with Merriweather and Brown, the latter a member of the college and pro football halls of fame and now chairman and commissioner of The Arena League as it works toward a June 2024 start date.
“It was funny,” Stuckey said. “Tobias said, ‘What do I ask him?’ I said, ‘Dude, you can ask Tim anything you want. It doesn’t have to be about football.' ”
Among Stuckey’s list of suggestions: “Ask him how it is to be a father, how is it being a husband? How was it winning the Heisman? How did that change your life? How hard did you work during practice to be a high draft pick and how was it different in the NFL? Or did you start thinking a different way when you got to the NFL?”
Tobias Merriweather:Freshman receiver makes his long-awaited splash for Notre Dame football
Even though Stuckey, a former Clemson standout who switched from quarterback to receiver, caught 106 passes over four NFL seasons (2008-11), he sees the value in bringing in fresh voices.
“All those things you might not want to hear from me that you hear from somebody else,” he said, “it might make a big difference. That’s the reason for the program.”
From young pros like Chase Claypool to recent retirees such as Michael Floyd, who expressed interest when he heard about the plan, Stuckey should have no shortage of former Irish standouts willing to pay it forward.
“Guys want to help,” Stuckey said. “They have so much information and they want to give back. It’s like they’re holding onto this gift and they’re like, ‘I don’t know what to do with it. What am I going to do with this gift?’ “
What quoth the Baltimore Ravens?
Stuckey and his inner circle had to consider a series of their own questions in the midst of offseason interest from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
In the end, the job went to veteran NFL assistant Greg Lewis in early March, but it was still a productive exercise for the Stuckey family.
“You work through the pros and cons, you go down the road just to see what it would be like if it was and it wasn’t,” Stuckey said. “My wife and I, together, prayed about it, worked through the process of everything — what it would be, what this would look like, what that would look like.”
Those conversations included son Aiden, who turned 7 in June and is already immersed in youth athletics through tennis, pickleball, swimming and football. He’s also keen on robotics.
“My son is very smart, very cerebral,” Stuckey said. “Talked to him about it. He understands a lot of that, which is very unique. It was a family effort. I don’t ever want to be one of those coaches or husbands that just says, ‘Hey, we’re leaving’ and never tell my wife anything.
“This is a partnership. It affects her, it affects my son. I would rather be happy and comfortable and (have) my family be doing well rather than just jumping at any opportunity.”
Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Moncken, back in the NFL after helping Georgia win back-to-back national titles, spent two seasons on Lou Holtz’s staff as a Notre Dame grad assistant in 1991-92.
“Coach Moncken is awesome,” Stuckey said. “We knew a lot of the same people. It was just good to talk and understand that those people are normal. True, it is the NFL, but I just didn’t know what it was like. It was awesome to go through the process to kind of hone my skills and see what I could do better and see what does work.
“It was great to get a measure of what it takes, what the interview process is like. Some things in life you need to go through so you understand, no matter what the outcome is. Even though I didn’t get that job, that could be a relationship that’s (beneficial) way down the road.”
In the meantime, Stuckey is only a phone call away: for prospective recruits or wedding planners.

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