SOUTH BEND — There is certainly something about returning to Notre Dame. Without fail, every time I’m exiting the Toll Road and spot that glimmering Golden Dome, you just feel differently. And when I’m coming to put football pads on for the first time since 1998, there are a few butterflies.
It’s hard to overstate what an upgrade the Gug is from the former Notre Dame football offices. Walking inside for the first time, you’re met by a bronze statue of the Four Horsemen. Each step inside brings another moment from Notre Dame history, as the walls are covered with photos like the iconic tackle from the Penn State snow game or a sensational diving catch by Rhema McKnight. Like all the new construction at Notre Dame, the Gug fits in seemlessly on campus, tucked in perfectly between practice fields and athletic buildings. Every step I took this afternoon I felt like somebody was going to tap me on the shoulder, ask to see my ticket stub, then kick me out.
And that was just for check in.
While a large portion of the campers are “returning lettermen,” us freshman seemed every bit the part of nervous newcomers as we were greeted by director of football operations Chad Klunder. Whether it was getting fitted for our helmets and shoulder pads by head equipment manager Ryan Grooms, talking to head athletic trainer JIm Russ, or looking at our game day locker in Notre Dame Stadium where a #11 Arnold jersey hangs under my nameplate, it should be an interesting week.
I’ll check back in tonight, but for now I need to study my playbook…