Semper Fi More than Just a Game

For Notre Dame pledge Mark Harrell, the Semper Fi Bowl was more than just a game. Harrell spoke with about his experience and more.

Mark Harrell returned from the Semper Fi Bowl with experiences he'll remember the rest of his life. While some players looked at the event as just another all-star game, Harrell's family tree provided other reasons for him to be a proud participant in the game.

"It was a great experience and a lot of fun," Harrell told about the inaugural Semper Fi Bowl. "It was an honor to play for those who protect your country. The Marines are the toughest fighting force we have and their training is unbelievable. To be part of that group of people and seeing what it takes to be a Marine, I know a lot of people could not handle it.

"My grandfather was a Marine and two of my uncles are (too). So I have some family history with the Marines and it was an honor to be part of the game knowing they were part of the Marines. Playing for them, and playing in honor of them and them representing us was a cool feeling. A lot of Generals came down to see us play, so you could see it meant a lot to them and that was a cool feeling."

While score was of course kept for the game, Harrell stresses he may not remember the outcome in the years to come.

"The score is the score," explained Harrell. "It's an all-star game, but the aspect of what it represents and experience is not just about the game. I'm sure years from now I'm going to remember the experiences and not the score. I'll remember playing in the game but it's not about if I won or lost the game, it was about all the cool experiences and the opportunities I was given to become a better player and compete against the best in the country."

All Hands on Deck

With several members of Notre Dame's recruiting class taking part in the contest, Harrell enjoyed getting to know his future teammates and others at the event a little better.

"It was a great experience as I had a chance to meet a lot of great kids and hang with a lot of the Notre Dame commits," said Harrell. "There were six of us there and a ton of guys there I knew from previous recruiting trips, so it was good to compete with them and just hang out and talk with them too."

While at the game Harrell and the other Irish pledges heard about the changes within the coaching staff. Harrell quickly got a status report from several of the members in the class.

"I checked in with Ronnie (Stanley) to make sure he was still solid. He said he's still solid and I texted Will Mahone who texted me and said he was still solid. I tried to get a hold of Taylor Decker but have not been able to yet.

"I'm assuming all the guys are solid. I know Ronnie said coach (Ed) Warinner is a good guy, but he picked Notre Dame for the school because you shouldn't pick a school just for the coaches. So we spoke about that and really it wasn't as big of a deal as people may want to make it."

Another interesting aspect Harrell watched unfold was the attention Tee Shepard and Deontay Greenberry received from the media about their commitment status. In some ways Harrell came away feeling the two enjoyed pulling the chains of the media hanging on their every word.

"First off you have to know Tee is a clown," Harrell explained. "If you've ever talked with Tee before he's a funny guy and loves to joke around. I'm not going to assume anything but if I had to make a guess, yea, I think he said things just to mess around a little bit, because he knows, like me, a lot of times the media just blows up things and runs away with things that are (sometimes) not seriously said. Tee and Deontay are solid too."

Exciting, Rewarding...but Tedious

During his own recruiting experiences Harrell felt people over-analyzed what he was thinking about in picking a college and tried to keep the things he heard and read in perspective.

However, he knew the sooner he got his decision out of the way, the better things would be.

"This is why I chose to commit to my college when I did," said Harrell. "It got to a point where people started assuming things about the stuff you're saying about your top schools and all sorts of stuff. So it got to the (point) where I knew where I was going to school instead of people saying things that were not true. So I just made my decision because I didn't really like to deal with having to name a 'Top Three' or who was the front-runner and all those other things.

"It got to a point where I said 'I'm done with this.' Did I like the process? Absolutely, but it just got to a certain point where it was kind of crazy."

One thing Harrell felt the recruiting process has helped him with is being in the public's eye.

"You know you're always going to be under the spotlight when you attend a school like Notre Dame," said Harrell. "People are going to judge the way you play, people are going to ridicule the way you play and some people are going to praise the way you play. It is just something you've got to get use to.

"So with all those people watching you can't let people get to you. That pressure is there, but once you start to think about it that is when you're going to start messing up. If you just play your game and do what you can do, that's when you're true game is going to come out and that is when you start playing well."

Has Harrell thought much about National Signing day?

"I really haven't thought about it too much," said Harrell. "But since you brought it up I'm ready to get it over with and ready to get it done. I've known where I wanted to go to school since last May, and now I'm ready to finally sign and get it over with and get the workout sent to me.

"I'm ready not only for me but for the other kids committed to Notre Dame as well. I want signing day to come so no one changes their mind."

Harrell has tried to take a leadership role since making his Irish pledge. What does he tell those looking at the Irish, or who have already committed when looking around at other schools?

"Notre Dame, for me especially, is just the ultimate mix between academics and football," said Harrell. "It has such a great combination and I just try and remind them of that and how special of a place it is and how you are honestly going to get the best education you possibly can and play football at the highest level.

"I honestly don't feel it gets any better than that. So I try and remind them of that as much as I can when I talk with these kids."

Leading up to signing day Harrell is working out and taking the steps needed to be ready to play a new position when he arrives on campus. He'll also be representing his country as a member of the U.S Under-19 National Team, joining fellow Irish pledges Justin Ferguson, Ronald Darby, Tee Shephard and Deontay Greenberry.

IE Note: We will check to see if Shephard will be able to play in the game with early enrollment in South Bend. Top Stories