A friendly reminder, in the wake of the season being over. Sad face!
There is something about the University of Notre Dame, something that sets it apart and makes it so much different than anywhere else. What is "it" about the University of Notre Dame? For me, it is Touchdown Jesus, the Alma Mater, the storied tradition, the beautiful campus, the Grotto & Basillica, Saint Mary's, and the Rockne Building. It was the dorm life, the professors and people I got to know, it was the opportunity to put on the gold helmet, to sing the Victory March, to touch the Play Like a Champion Sign, and to run out of the tunnel to the screams of the Irish faithful. That is what "it" is!
As an Irish football player, there is a huge amount of pressure to live up to and maintain the legacy that has been created over the past 125 years. That, however, is a large reason why each athlete chooses to attend the University of Notre Dame: to have the opportunity to bring ND back to prominence. Each team wants to be remembered for doing so and that thought weighs heavily on the mind of every Irish player. We know who we represent and the legacy created before us. We play to honor every former player and coach, and aim to raise the bar that they set which will continue to draw people to Notre Dame Stadium on beautiful fall Saturdays.
Football weekends at Notre Dame always have a certain buzz about them. Notre Dame is one of those rare places where people are always visiting campus, taking tours, wanting to witness whatever "it" is that may be going on. Regardless of the opponent on a given weekend, people are always on campus. When the game is bigger, the buzz starts sooner and people start trickling onto campus sooner
The buzz begins with the first day of practice for the week. As the week progresses, there is a distinct change in the atmosphere on campus, in the classroom, in the dining halls, and at practice. Distractions during game week, especially during a big game come in all shapes and sizes. Professors might ask about the coming game, the girl in your US Foreign Policy class suddenly is interested in what you have to say, the dorm rector stops by to give an inspirational quote, and your group of buddies is frantically trying to make a poster with your face on it. What often goes unnoticed by fans is that we (spoken as a former player) are student-athletes. In the midst of this amazing opportunity, a huge game, all the practice, preparation, and film study, we still go to class, we write papers, we play video games, we spend time with friends, and we enjoy college. Keeping things in perspective is of the utmost importance. After all, we have a job to do and an entire ND Nation to represent.
By the end of the week, once all the hard work has been put in, players have an opportunity let loose a little bit and enjoy the pep rally. It is hard to describe the Notre Dame pep rally unless you've been to Notre Dame and have experienced it yourself. The electricity is amazing and support from the fans and student body is second to none. Having had the opportunity to speak at a pep rally as a player, it is one of those moments you do not forget.
After the pep rally, as the majority of the Irish faithful make their ways to local South Bend establishments for the remainder of the night, the Irish football team travels to a hotel. As the entire campus is going crazy on Friday nights, each Irish football player is tucked nicely into bed, away from the noise. An athletes greatest friend is sleep, but sleep is always tough when game day at Notre Dame is on the horizon.
Game day at Notre Dame is incredible. Fans are able to tailgate on one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. For players, and what I most fondly remember was the routine on Saturday mornings: the pre-game meal, to the ride from the hotel to campus, team mass, the player walk, pre-game warmups, and then finally suiting up and running out of the tunnel. It truly cannot be taken for granted. Just as each fan embraces the experience in his/her own way, each player embraces the moment differently. Some enjoy the spotlight/attention and ultimately it prepares them for the game, while others attempt to distance themselves and "avoid the noise."
The lore of Notre Dame is the reason that thousands upon thousands of fans feel compelled to descend upon a Midwestern town in the state of Indiana and why athletes from all over the country make this their home. For whatever reason you want to pick, it's different, and people want to touch it, smell it, live it! Whether you are a player, a fan, or objective bystander, enjoy the Notre Dame experience. Go Irish!