I still don’t entirely understand this elaborate process called “recruiting.” To me, it looks like Thai shadow puppetry, the way coaches and players chase each other around behind a screen until our new drop-everything-holiday, National Signing Day. Of course, people frequently remind me that what I used to call recruiting would now be classified as conscription at best, kidnapping at worst (get a lad to visit your Northern Indiana outpost, and then pretend the trains quit running because of the snow – he can either sulk, or play angry football).
Some valuable insight into the long, slow dance of recruiting was recently provided by a young man with a fantastic name, Vernon Hargreaves III. I don’t care if he is all thumbs and two left feet; I like my Popes and my football players with Roman numerals. Vernon grew up in Florida and has chosen to remain in his home state to play football (whether the institution for which he will be playing constitutes a proper college is a matter for another diatribe discussion). Sometimes you can’t overcome the emotional pull of home – I wish Vernon hearty good luck…because his team doesn’t appear on our schedule.
Vernon did contemplate attending the University of Notre Dame, and visited our little shrine-cum-campus. He had some very nice things to say about us. He noted our stellar graduation rate, he was impressed by our “tradition,” and he found Brian Kelly to be funny (the man needed a good sense of humor to get through the month of January). Ultimately, Vernon found that it took a “different” sort of player to attend Notre Dame, and it just wasn’t the right fit for him.
In contrast, at Alabama the head coach woos recruits by sprawling upon a vast recliner, and using a button on said lounge chair to close the office door behind the lad…very slowly. It says much about the quality of student-athlete at Alabama, that an easy chair and a remote control door are sufficient to amaze and entice the young men. It says more about Vernon that he will not be playing for the Crimson Tide.
But it is cheap and tawdry to make oneself look good by pointing out another’s flaws. The Fighting Irish cannot recruit fine young scholars with a talent for football, if all we do is talk about the seedy underbellies of our opponents. We must show recruits what we have, and what they can gain, here and no place else.
Only at Notre Dame can you experience the lusty fullness of all four seasons…sometimes in the space of one week. Not for us the dreary predictability of California weather, or the constant sun and humidity of Florida’s peninsular existence. Fluffy snow, skating ice, hot sun, violent thunderstorms, gale-force winds, torrential rains, blizzards, white-our conditions, sub-zero freezes, dense fog, and snownados – we’ve got it ALL. If scientists discover a fourth state of water, in addition to gas, liquid, and solid, they will find it falling on us here. And then there are those postcard perfect days when the sun glints off the Dome, and the flowers and trees provide a kaleidoscope of nature’s glory. That’s mostly during football season and spring practice. So we have the timing right.
Only at Notre Dame will you be encouraged in your pursuit of Divine Truth. You need not be Catholic to attend, nor do we expect you to become Catholic while here. But we want to help you look at the Greater Things in this world and the next. We will let you use the word “God” without fear or embarrassment, and we will help you to embrace His mercy and walk hand-in-hand with Him on the shores of life. Yes, we will expect you to go to Mass before you play in your games. But we will not force you to dust your chest with powdered deer antler, rub snake oil into your armpits, or anoint your loins with eye of newt. I’m not talking about Druids here – this occurs at another college in AmericA (get my drift…).
Only at Notre Dame do we expect that you live among the general population. Specifically, in one of our mixed-class, boys only dormitories. This is an opportunity to get to know aerospace engineers, economists, biochemists, and architects. If professional football works out for you, they may build your private planes, manage your investments, and design your homes. If you have to rely on what you actually studied in college, you will know how the rest of the world works. And these fellows will be your brother-captains of industry. As for the quaint separation by gender, consider it this way: 1) You don’t play football with young women, and this is just an extension of that discipline; 2) Your mother will be so happy, and will have so much more trust in you, knowing that she is not in competition for your love. Son, make your life enjoyable – always keep mom happy.
Only at Notre Dame can you be a part of the very fabric of American College Football. This is where the icons have been painted. This is where the epics are first written. This is where two positive, uplifting football movies have been filmed (an those are rare as hen’s teeth). You can be a football player anywhere – but you can become a legend only at Notre Dame. You can play in every sort and variety of glitzy, high-tech arena in the country. But this is the only place where you can step back into the 1950s by stepping into the Stadium. Only in this Stadium will you experience moments of such peace and profound silence that you can reflect on deeper mysteries. Hmmm…we’re working on some changes here so let’s refocus on the bigger picture. In this Stadium you play in an actual landmark, a true piece of living history – you strive on hallowed ground.
And in general
At Notre Dame you really have to go to class and graduate with a real degree, so that when your right arm or left knee quits working for you, your book-smarts can start. We have a human mascot, not a giant plush toy; so if you need to get out some irrational blame or venting, yell at the Leprechaun – he’ll yell back and you’ll both feel better. We have two spring-fed lakes, so we’ll be safe and happy in the event of some desert apocalypse.
And of course
At Notre Dame we have The BVM. She heals a Lourdes. She gives prophesies at Fatima. But she cheers at Notre Dame…and Only at Notre Dame.
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