Walk-on safety Connor Cavalaris might have done something that most offensive lineman will struggle with. He stopped blue-chip recruit Eddie Vanderdoes in his tracks.
Sure, it didn’t happen on the field. But when Vanderdoes was looking at jersey numbers, he scrolled down the roster and saw that his long-worn high school number — No. 47 — was taken by the sophomore safety from Lake Forest, Illinois. So Vanderdoes called an audible, and in doing so almost arbitrarily joined the prestigious Irish fraternity that has donned the No. 3 jersey.
“They have somebody at #47,” Vanderdoes told Sure West Sports’ Mike Finnerty. “But talking to Louie Nix, and Louie is going to be No. 1 this year and Stephon is No. 7. He goes, ‘Bro, you’ve got to get a single-digit number.’ And it was either three or five, and I took three.”
So it’s not exactly the story traditionalists will want to think of when they look back at greats like Lamonica, Montana, Mirer Floyd and Vanderdoes, but any incoming freshman that calls a 340-pound behemoth like Nix “Louie,” should be alright with Irish fans.
That kind of attitude is probably what’s most refreshing about Vanderdoes. While he’s got the elite reputation of one of the best defensive linemen in the country, Vanderdoes seems remarkably absent of ego, merely a really big kid looking to fit in and play football on one of the nation’s most promising teams.
In an interview he did after Signing Day, listening to Vanderdoes showed you the true personality of a kid that seemed genuinely excited to go back to being a football player, already tired of the celebrity status that came with being one of the final undecided top recruits in the country. Even though the process was a grind, Vanderdoes talked about what made the opportunity so special.
“Only so many people in the whole world get to go through that,” Vanderdoes told Finnerty. “The people you get to meet throughout the process. Meeting the other recruits, picking their brains, going on visits. Getting to ride Nick Saban’s golf cart around. How many people get to do that?”
Yet for all the cache that comes along with big personalities like Saban, what drew Vanderdoes to Notre Dame was the intimate feel that came with the school. For a small town guy that clings proudly to his Auburn, California roots, that was a selling point.
“It’s my foundation. Having all of these people backing me up and making sure I’m doing the right thing,” Vanderdoes said. “They truly care about me here and they’re always looking out for me. That’s the thing in South Bend that stuck out to me, it’s a lot like Auburn. A tight knit community, everybody is looking out for you.”
That community included the dorm life at Notre Dame, where scholarship athletes live wall-to-wall with regular students, something Vanderdoes was originally skeptical about, but learned to embrace.
“At first it was a little bit iffy. I’m rooming with students and I’m a football player, that’s going to be weird,” Vanderdoes said. “But going down there, the students are great. You really get to network with everybody there, it’s not just with the football team. You’re talking to future CEOs, with students and all that.”