National Signing Day has come and gone. For many, it is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. It is a special day and ends one of the strangest periods in an athlete’s life known as the “recruiting process.” In a period of 24 hours, an athlete’s life changes drastically. These hours are filled with nervous energy as your dreams are about to become a reality. Every athlete recalls the day they made their decision "official." Here is what I experienced almost 15 years ago to the day:
The day before national signing day doesn't have the glitz and glamour, but there is an equal amount of unrest and nerves. Like your typical high schooler, I hit the snooze button multiple times until I finally rolled out of bed. I was in the middle of basketball season so I put on my game day attire which included a tie with the colors of our opponent. The atmosphere at school was different than most days as teachers took a little extra time to chat with me about the following days' excitement. Following classes, I sauntered down to my football coach's office to talk with him. It wasn't too long after being in his office when I got a phone call from Notre Dame quarterback David Cutcliffe. I had grown very fond of Coach Cutcliffe and our interaction over the telephone was jovial. He told me to "relax" and enjoy the experience because before long "it will be over." It was starting to sink in that I would be attending Notre Dame to play football and have a position coach that mentored both the Manning brothers. My excited was growing, but I had a game to play so I kept my feelings in check. Although my basketball team was average at best, the arena was packed and several media outlets had traversed to watch me play solely because I was the 2005 Irish quarterback recruit. In what would end up being my final high school basketball game, I finished with 15 points in the last three minutes of the game to finish with 27 points in a loss. Following the game I spoke briefly with Dave Peloquin, the recruiting coordinator at that time, about the proceedings for the following morning. "Do have the fax machine ready to go!" Dave said with a chuckle. "We are really excited to finally make this official," he continued. The recruiting process had been a rocky one with the firing of Ty Willingham and the eventual hire of Charlie Weis, but Dave and his staff did a wonderful job of contacting and communicating with recruits. The night before signing can be very nerve racking. “Am I making the right choice?” or “Am I prepared for this?” can creep into an athlete’s mind. As I drifted off to sleep the day before my signing, I felt a peace about my decision.
I remember my signing day back in 2005 like it was yesterday. For me, and so many others, this was a dream of ours to play football at the next level. It was also an opportunity to get our education paid for and set ourselves up for great success once our athletic careers were over. This time, when the alarm went off, I jumped out of bed. Excitement fills the air. The day is finally here. I put on my Notre Dame sweatpants, sweatshirt, and hat as I scramble down the stairs. I get into the car with my dad as we make our way to his office to fax the hallowed piece of paper to the Irish coaching staff. I still find this mode of communication the strangest part of signing day. Upon confirmation of my Letter of Intent, I get a phone call from Charlie Weis himself and the rest of the Notre Dame coaching staff congratulating me and sharing in a mutual moment of excitement. Coach Weis told me to “enjoy the moment’ and share it with my friends and family. He also mentioned that this, aside from who I would marry, "is the most important decision you have made and, let me tell you Evan, you made the right choice." Before he hung up he closed with, "now it is time to get to work." I thanked him for the opportunity and relayed my gratitude for helping me realize a personal goal. The rest of the day was very surreal for me and went by like a whirlwind. I felt like I was living in some type of dream. Strange as it were, my memory of the day is split into mental snapshots of moments I shared with those close to me. I put on a brand new suite I had bought for signing day and donned a Notre Dame pin on my lapel. TV reporters and news stations from South Bend had made the trek to Marshall High School in Marshall, MI to film my signing and interview me. I sat at a table in my school's library and pretended to sign my Letter of Intent (since this had already been done earlier). My experience was very personal as I did not share it with just anyone. I included those that were very close to me and that had been a large part in helping me reach my goal. One such person was my father, who, true to his form exclaimed to the reports, "I feel like Rudy's dad because 'My son is going to Notre Dame'" I still give him a hard time about that sound bite. Looking back now, I thankful to have had so many people supporting me and proud of decision. The journey was just beginning.
Strangely enough, after you sign your name on the dotted line, you are no longer being “wooed,” and the red carpets are now gone and as Weis said, "it was time to get to work! I get goosebumps telling my story from 2005.