Fantasy Camp: The calm before the storm

Sometimes you just get lucky. As tables began to fill up in the Naimoli Family Club Room in the Purcell Pavillion I sat down at a table with defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin, outside linebackers coach Kerry Cooks, offensive intern Bill Brechin and fellow camper Terry Philbin, a college teammate of Martin’s at Millikin University. That left one seat empty at the table, directly to my left. A few seconds later it was filled by two-time All-American Allen Pinkett.

Needless to say, last night was a good night.

With many of the campers having already forged incredible relationships, it was a slightly bizarre experience, with the coaching staff going through the motions of camp for the first time and the campers leading the way, it almost felt like the inmates were running the asylum. (And if you get to meet the guys that are here, you’ll know the comparison is a good one.)

But Day One was the calm before the storm. With our gear waiting in our lockers at Notre Dame Stadium, and a bus ready to take us to the locker room at 8:15 a.m., you’ll hear all about pulled muscles and tweaked ankles later. (I’m sadly already nursing a bad wheel coming into camp. No, it’s not an excuse, I promise.)

Last night was all about remembering what makes Notre Dame special. Whether its the Monogram Club, with over 7,000 active members and its charitable work supporting student-athletes for over 90 years, or camp creator Patrick Steenberge, the former Notre Dame quarterback that valiantly filled in for Joe Theismann in the Cotton Bowl, the opening reception was a great reminder of the rich history of Notre Dame.

What also made the night great was the ability to interact with the coaching staff. While Coach Kelly was at another official event (likely to celebrate his incredibly generous gift to the university), we mingled freely with all the assistants. It was great to actually talk to the guys we watch deliver two-minute sound bites on shaky internet videos. It really is true that Tim Hinton knows every high school coach in Ohio, Kerry Cooks has a great knowledge of Texas, and Bob Diaco is a spiffy dresser, they aren’t just playing that role for cameras. More incredibly, with the amount of time these coaches have spent on the road, some of them are still transitioning from hotel rooms while their families make their way to South Bend. I can thank Ed Warinner for the good suggestion on finding a cheap tooth brush in the lobby gift shop.

As I retreated to my room to get some work done tonight, I finally noticed another great gift that was waiting for me that I missed when I first checked in. It was a framed official scholarship letter, signed by head coach Brian Kelly. Apparently, he’s offering me a full football scholarship, effective June 7th. I expect that offer to likely expire sometime today, after he sees me behind center.

Either way, it was fun while it lasted.

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