An 11-mile Effort

Notre Dame needs difference makers on the defensive side of the ball and Stephon Tuitt certainly fits the mold. The standout athlete from Monroe High School (Monroe, Ga.) is the No. 12 rated defensive end in the country and one of the most important recruits in Notre Dame's 2011 recruiting class.

Stephon Tuitt didn't play football prior to his freshman year, but the first day Monroe head coach Matt Fligg met Tuitt, he knew what type of effort he would get from Tuitt.

"He was clumsy at first, and he had to learn the game," Fligg said about the 6-foot-5, 252-pound Tuitt. "He didn't know anything about weight lifting and he didn't know anything about football.

"He lived in the lower part of our county about 11 miles away. On the first day of weight training his freshman year, he walked 11 miles to school to workout. We were done by the time he got here, but we knew with that type of effort that he was committed. We picked him up after that. We had a coach pick him up every day. We didn't let him walk again.

"We told him early that he could have something special with his life with football," Fligg said. "He's such a good academic guy and he was coachable. He got real serious about weights and did the proper things in order to become a major college player."

Tuitt played on the junior varsity his freshman year, and showed glimpses of being a future star. After adding some size, Stephon was moved up to the varsity his sophomore season and started to dominate.

"He really played well his sophomore year," Fligg explained. "He started and started to make an impact. That year is what made him get recognized. His size and height is what made him a prospect without even watching him play football, but he started making special plays.

"He runs so well, and that's what really got him on the radar. He'd run people down from the defensive end spot across the field. He'd run across the field and you could see him outrunning our defensive backs. Even without an angle, he was chasing down running backs. That's effort. We tell our kids to go from snap to whistle and that's what he does."

That effort turned Tuitt from a clumsy freshman into a force that wreacked havoc in opposing backfields the remainder of his high school career.

"His junior year, last spring, we had 20 coaches a day over here just like a typical blue-chip guy," Fligg said. "He went to the Nike camps and he won all these 1-on-1 competitions with the best people in the country. He does have a motor.

"One thing about playing defensive end is that you can't get doubled, because he's an edge player. People put their best tackle on him, but he didn't have any problem with them. He's a great anchor.

"We ran a lot of 3-man fronts this year," he said. "You need to have somebody to anchor that edge and with the length of his arms and his legs he's a great anchor. It's tough to get around him. He can be a two gap player if he plays head up." Top Stories