Full Go, As Usual

Notre Dame freshman defensive end Andrew Trumbetti credits early enrollment -- and a confidence-boosting all-star game appearance -- for his smooth transition to college football.

For most college freshmen, their "welcome to college football" moment occurs during an early August practice when, at 18-years-old, they're pitted against a senior All-American or future pro.

For others, it's the first full-team sprint to the field in the season-opener, the band or sound system blaring, drawn out by delirious cheers of a home crowd.

For a few, it's forgettable. Such is the case for Irish defensive end Andrew Trumbetti.

Literally.

"To be honest, I don't really remember it that well," said Trumbetti, the result of an unpenalized helmet-to-helmet hit he suffered at the hands of Michigan tight end Khalil Hill. "Someone had to tell me where the sideline was. I ran off to the sidelines. I was cleared to get back in the game but when I did, I struggled."

"I was fine. I was mostly in shock because I didn't really know what happened. It came out of nowhere. For a couple minutes I was out of it."

Trumbetti sat out the following contest, a 30-14 Notre Dame win over Purdue. There wasn't much that didn't hurt.

"It was a combination of like everything from here (chest) on up," he said with a smile. "It was probably the first game I've ever missed in my life so it was really tough for me to sit and watch on the sidelines."

He hasn't missed much else since enrolling at the university in January. Fifteen spring practice sessions and a semester acclimating to a college environment and football program have proved invaluable.

"I think it would have been very difficult if I came in the summer like everyone else did," said Trumbetti, the most-often used true freshmen among five that rotate with the Irish defense. "It was the best decision for me. Coming in, learning the package, getting acclimated to classes so I wasn't thrown right into it. Meeting a lot of friends, getting comfortable with the guys on the team. All of it helped."

Enough that Trumbetti was noted as "a starter" by head coach Brian Kelly exiting August camp. He's since ceded that technicality to junior Romeo Okwara, who not coincidentally played the best game of his college career with Trumbetti out last week against Purdue. With no rotation available, Okwara played the lion's share of the defense's 66 snaps, registering 11 tackles including a half-sack and a forced fumble.

Cleared for practice Tuesday (Sept. 16), Trumbetti is ready to reenter the rotation, spelling Okwara on the weak side and potentially sophomore Isaac Rochell on the strong side as well. Trumbetti's been in the mix from the outset largely because he possesses a football trait that can't be taught or coached.

A non-stop motor.

"I just think it's something you're born with. I know I'm not physically gifted like other people so I have to make up for that in another way," said Trumbetti. "I feel like what sets me apart is my motor, I'm tough, and I'm never going to give up. It's an instinct, I think you're born with that (playing fast)."

With five tackles (two for no gain including a 3rd-and-1 stop against Michigan, plus one that yielded just two yards) and a quarterback hurry to his credit in two games, Trumbetti has proved his wares early. It was something he did from the outset last spring after he took the drastic leap from Big North Conference (Bergen and Passiac counties, N.J.) competition to tangling with veterans on the winningest program in college football history.

"I don't think it took me a long time," he said of the adjustment. "The first couple practices I thought I did really well. I played in the Under Armour (all-star) game and that really (helped). I feel like if I didn't play in that I would have come in here a little timid, but I didn't, because I knew I could compete with guys like that. You just have to come in here with the mindset that you belong here."

Should he ever doubt that, Trumbetti knows where to turn.

"*Tony Springmann. Even though he doesn't play, he's like a coach to me, like an older brother to me," said Trumbetti of the Irish veteran that's helped him most since his arrival in South Bend. "He's always there for me, whether it's football or life, he's always there."

(A key contributor to the 2012 BCS Championship game run, Springmann missed 2013 with a knee injury; his playing career ended because of a lingering back injury but he remains on a medical scholarship at the university.)

Notre Dame was always there for Trumbetti, too. Myriad incoming freshmen could have been affected by the program's off-season coordinator change from Bob Diaco to Brian VanGorder. None more so than Trumbetti -- Diaco was his recruiter, and his move to become the head coach at the University of Connecticut was hardly timely.

"He took the job the night of my in-home visit," Trumbetti recalled. "I committed to a school, I didn't really commit to a coach. I didn't have any thoughts of looking at another school, I was set on Notre Dame."

Perhaps Trumbetti has a "welcome to college football" moment worth remembering after all.


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