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Forde takes a look at life on campus

Dec 11, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

SorinSeptember03

When you comparing dorm life at Notre Dame to other perennial football powers, a cinder block room on north quad probably doesn’t look too appealing for potential student-athletes. And while schools like Oklahoma erect $75 million living quarters that feel more like penthouses than college dorms, there’s a certain charm to campus life at Notre Dame, where students and athletes live together.

Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde spent a little time on campus last week for a story on dorm life, trailing Irish football players KeiVarae Russell, Romeo Okwara, and Matthias Farley. The entire story is worth a read, but there are some wonderful tidbits worth sharing here.

On KeiVarae Russell finding his place in Sorin Hall.

KeiVarae is a freshman starter from Seattle. They’re two of several players living in Sorin, intermingled with the general student population.

KeiVarae’s roommates are from Brazil, Michigan and North Carolina. None plays football.

“I’ve really enjoyed that,” KeiVarae said. “A lot of schools I visited, the players were isolated from the rest of the students. This makes you fit in.

“Football players, I know how we got here. I didn’t know how my roommate got here from Brazil, or how guys got here from Michigan or North Carolina. I’ve learned a lot.”

Last Thursday, KeiVarae walked a visitor through Sorin introducing him to a wide cross-section of students: the studious kid who is always in the dorm’s basement kitchen on his laptop; the preppy kid who dresses like a male model; the kid who plays saxophone in the marching band; the kid from Mississippi on his way out to buy a gift for the dorm’s Secret Santa freshman present exchange.

Russell lives in Sorin with walk-on defensive lineman Grant Patton as well, along with story-stealer Alvin Hu, a computer science and engineering major with Asperger Syndrome, who is enjoying this title run.

Here’s Romeo Okwara on the challenges that come with jumping from high school to Notre Dame, especially for a (ridiculously large) 17-year-old.

As a freshman, Romeo has a mandatory two-hour study hall Sunday through Wednesday. There are tutors and academic advisers assigned to the players to help them as needed. If they attain a certain grade-point average their first year, they don’t have to attend study hall.

“In high school I felt like I could breeze through,” says Romeo, who is from Charlotte and hopes to major in accounting or finance. “Here, you have to do a lot of studying on your own, outside of class.”

Finally, Forde catches up with safety Matthias Farley, who is on the inside track for being the team’s true Renaissance Man.

Even with math out of the way, Matthias’ days are full. He’s taking 15 credit hours this semester, which means many of his weekdays go like this: weightlifting from 8-9 a.m., class from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., meetings at 2:15 p.m. and then practice. After dinner at the training table, it’s time to study for a few hours.

“If you manage your time, you have enough hours in the day,” he says. “I learned last year that I can do it – I can manage the academic load, the social aspect and football, and still be fine and sane.”

This year he lives in Dillon hall with two teammates, but that’s not who he spends all his time with. The night before his last Satire class, Matthias was playing soccer video games with a bunch of non-football friends.

“I feel like living in a football dorm would really limit you socially,” he says.

When the Irish are a five-loss team, stories like this from student-athletes can be used to explain why Notre Dame might never make it back to the top of college football’s mountain. But when the team is 12-0 and playing a program like Nick Saban’s Alabama team — run more like an NFL squad than anything collegiate — well, it feels a little bit like Nuke Laloosh’s shower shoes.

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