Why did Xavier Nwankpa pick Iowa, Ohio State and Notre Dame? Southeast Polk mega-prospect breaks down his finalists

Alyssa Hertel
Des Moines Register

Xavier Nwankpa, the No. 1 recruit in Iowa and No. 45 prospect in the nation, announced his top three schools Saturday afternoon, picking Iowa, Notre Dame and Ohio State. The senior safety out of Southeast Polk has received 31 total offers.

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Nwankpa is the No. 3 safety in the country, trailing only Kamari Wilson, who plays for IMG Academy, and Jacoby Mathews out of Louisiana, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Out of his top picks, Iowa was the first to offer Nwankpa in October 2019. Notre Dame followed suit in November 2019 and Ohio State offered in September 2020. Ultimately, what made these three schools stand out among the rest is simple.

"Definitely the relationships," Nwankpa told The Register on Saturday. "I had the best relationship with all three schools, and then also the development that they’ve had in the past."

Here’s what Nwankpa said about each school:


"They have a top-notch defense like they’re showing this year. They’re getting a bunch of picks every game, a bunch of turnovers that are helping their offense win. They also have well-respected coaches and a group of guys I grew up with and went to high school and played against."

Iowa has been the in-state favorite for some time, and they showed they how much they wanted Nwankpa by making him an offer during his sophomore season. While many counted the Hawkeyes out early on, Iowa’s top-five ranking and undefeated start to the season could convince Nwankpa to stay in-state.

MORE: Inside the origin story of Southeast Polk mega-prospect Xavier Nwankpa

Southeast Polk senior wide receiver/safety Xavier Nwankpa (5) missed Friday's game between the No. 1 Rams and No. 3 Ankeny Hawks due to injury.

Ohio State

"Some of the recruiters there, I have the closest relationship with. Going against the wide receiver room every day would just help me become one of the best players I can be."

Ohio State emerged as the early favorite when Nwankpa first narrowed down his schools in May. He had an official visit with the Buckeyes on June 4 — along with Ohio State commit Kye Stokes.

Notre Dame

"The relationships I have with the coaches and what they’re doing with their defense — changing it from the past to the new defense they have from Cincinnati. I can also get a top-notch education that will help me for my future."

Nwankpa said the Fighting Irish defense has always been good. But when they brought in Marcus Freeman as defensive coordinator in January, Nwankpa wanted to see how his coaching skills from Cincinnati translated at Notre Dame. So far, he likes what he sees, saying that the players reacted well and are just getting better every week.

With his top three chosen, Nwankpa is one step closer to deciding what program is the best fit for the next four years.

Before that happens, he has one final official visit, attending next week’s Iowa game against Penn State. He has two unofficial visits lined up for later in the month, traveling to Notre Dame on October 23 and Ohio State on October 30.

Southeast Polk senior Xavier Nwankpa breaks tackles en route to the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter against West Des Moines Valley on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant Hill.

Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.