A legacy has been made.

Terry Hanratty, who quarterbacked at the University of Notre Dame in the '60s (including winning a national title in 1966) and later went on to play with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, saw his son, Conor, make his decision over the weekend: he, too, will play collegiate football with the Irish.

The choice was one many expected, but perhaps maybe not this soon.

Hanratty, a junior at New Canaan High, made his verbal commitment to the South Bend, Indiana, school over the weekend during an on-campus trip to visit first-year Irish head coach Brian Kelly and tour the facilities. It wasn't the first time Hanratty had stepped on what many consider to be the most hallowed grounds -- in terms of college football universities.

"I think Notre Dame is a school that Conor's been to his whole life," Rams football coach Lou Marinelli told the News. "He basically grew up there because of his dad, and I'm sure he's been out there a number of times. Deep down, I think that's where he really wanted to go his whole life and it's his life's dream that he's achieved now."

Hanratty, an offensive lineman, is considered a four-star recruit (out of a five-star scale) by most scouting websites and is ranked among the top 10 in offensive linemen as well.

Marinelli described Hanratty as an extremely quiet player but one who has handled his job with tremendous maturity.

"He was kind of thrown into the starting position as a sophomore when one of our seniors quit," Marinelli said. "He started every game from his sophomore year and never missed a game. He's been very solid on that side for us."

He's made the All-FCIAC First Team the past two seasons and was voted All-State last fall. One coach told the News last season that Hanratty was extremely dominate, yet hadn't even come close to reaching his full potential as an offensive lineman. That's good news for the Irish and good news for Marinelli, who still gets one more season out of the 6-foot-4, 300-pound pusher.

"We're expecting a lot out of him," Marinelli said. "Whether he's going to Notre Dame or not, we're expecting a lot out of him. But [the Notre Dame decision] takes a lot of pressure off him and his family. And at this time of the year, especially, because the coaches are allowed to visit now. I've pulled him out of class more times to talk with coaches ... it becomes very difficult, almost a circus-like atmosphere."

In fact, a coach from the University of Iowa was scheduled to fly to the East Coast and arrive at New Canaan High at 8 a.m. Monday morning -- until he learned of Hanratty's verbal commitment.

"It gets crazy because it's nice to be recruited that way, but the bottom line is you have to tell all those guys no, except one, at some point," Marinelli said.

Hanratty caught the eye of many Division I schools since he was plugged into the starting lineup at the beginning of the 2008 season. From Wisconsin to Florida State to Penn State to Stanford, more than 10 BCS-level universities offered Hanratty a chance to don their uniform.

Kelly didn't call Marinelli, mainly because Hanratty was originally offered the scholarship by former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, who is now the offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. Still, Kelly's staff went through the Hanratty to find out the offer was still an interest for the family. Marinelli said a trip to South Bend was made to ensure Kelly's vision of the program was one the Hanrattys agreed with -- along with ensuring all communication was clear in regard to still having a scholarship on the table.

Now, the 17-year-old gets to enjoy the final days of his junior year and continue to do weight-room training. He'll be used just as much on both sides of the ball in 2010, Marinelli said.

"We're going to definitely use him on defense as well. When we get a kid like this we're going to get all we can out of him before he goes."