There’s something a little bizarre about walking out of the Notre Dame football locker room dressed in your varsity issue gear and heading to practice on the new LaBar Practice field turf. Surrounded by prospective students on campus tours and the perpetual buzz of workers either building or maintaining something on campus, we looked a little bit like one of those slow-motion scenes played in a movie montage, where the heroes are about to do something extraordinary.
And extraordinary it was. For the first time in the camp’s history, they’ve got us campers playing our annual Blue-Gold game in full pads, something that’s one part incredible and another part terrifying. Helmets and shoulder pads certainly change the game quite a bit, especially for a roster with guys from 29- to 73-years old.
Yesterday was a long day. We were out the door for the night at 8:15, with a bus waiting to take us to the stadium locker room where a squadron of the team’s medical staff waited to tape us up and get us ready for our first practice of game week. It’s amazing what they can do to a group of guys like us, and any worried about my bum wheel were quickly erased after a few quick sessions with Jim Russ and his training staff.
I’ll come back and hit the meetings later, but the practice sessions were incredible. I got my first glimpse of life in the spread offense, and I can tell you first hand how tough it is to simply get the ball out of your hands quick enough. And a few of my wide receivers were past their 50th birthday. But working with former All-American quarterback Terry Hanratty didn’t hurt, and they squeezed as much from my five-foot-nothing frame as you could probably get.
A lot of what we learned yesterday wasn’t meant for the internet, but merely a sneak peek behind the scenes of how this staff planned on coaching their players. From the hands-on tutelage of offensive coordinator Charley Molnar, to learning the intricacies of cloud coverage with defensive backs coach Chuck Martin, everybody’s head was spinning from the minute they stepped foot on the field or in the classroom.
Still, after the first round of two-a-days, most are in good health and on track to play in Notre Dame Stadium Thursday afternoon, the goal for everyone. And even if we might not have understood every concept the staff showed us, we were certainly having a good time, with the coaches laughing along the way as well, doing their best to find some bit of their expertise that could help out this awe-inspiring group of athletes.
After an incredible dinner last night with Brian Kelly and the coaching staff, the rosters for the Blue-Gold game have been set. In between Gold team meetings today, I’ll try to hop on here and give you guys a bit more about our daily activities. They’ve packed this camp wall to wall with things that are dreams for Irish fans, and I’ll do my best to take you there with me.