The first member of Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class grew up a fan of the Irish and especially one of its former players.
For Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer, his love affair with Notre Dame was one that has grown over the years.
“We would go to Notre Dame games when Kyle Rudolph played,” said Kraemer about the former Irish tight end. “So that was the main reason we went. But I’ve always liked them and watched them play on television on Saturday’s as they are always on television. So I’ve always watched them and have been a fan my whole life.”
It was during those game day visits that Kraemer first dreamed of someday wearing a golden helmet.
“I remember watching Kyle play and going up to the games and sitting in the very last row of the stadium,” continued Kraemer. “I’d be looking down in the end zone and seeing everything going on and be like wow, that’s a special thing right there and hopefully someday I might have an opportunity to do that. Now that is all coming true and it’s really unbelievable.”
The quickness of the recruiting process surprised Kraemer following the first game of his sophomore year as recruiting reporters, college coaches and fans looked to get his attention.
“It was crazy after that game and I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “The thing I remember most right after that is probably the whole Twitter thing. You would get an offer and you would have fans tweet you and that was crazy. But I think the thing I’ll remember most will be all the people at Elder coming up and asking me where I’m going or patting me on the back. That is the stuff I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
As for when the Irish coaching staff caught his attention, Kraemer said it didn’t take long after his first encounter with Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.
“The thing that really caught me was when Coach Hiestand came to school for the first time,” said Kraemer. “I really had no idea who he was or if he was even the offensive line coach or not. But we talked for about ten minutes and I really had a great feel for him. So when I got back to my classroom, I looked in to him some more. So that was the real first time I had a great feel about Notre Dame.”
As for what impressed him most about the program as a whole, Kraemer couldn’t just talk about one thing.
“Wow, really everything,” he stressed. “You just walk down the tunnel and the hallway and you just feel the tradition. You walk through the campus and it’s just so beautiful. You meet the people at the business school, which I’m looking in to and they are all great. They you meet the coaching staff, talk with the players and just everyone you meet is so great. So the moment I stepped on campus I just knew that was it.”
The long family friendship with Rudolph also allowed Kraemer to ask more in-depth questions about following the same path the Minnesota Vikings tight end took from Elder High School to South Bend. Including if the education he’s received at Elder would have him prepared for Notre Dame.
“That was the first question I asked Kyle,” Kraemer said. “I asked him how hard it would be going from Elder to Notre Dame and he said it was a perfect fit. He explained how at Elder you’re taught to handle schools and football both at the same time. He said at Elder, you are taught well and know how to do everything.
Family Friend Rudolph Was A Wealth Of Knowledge.
“He said that at Notre Dame, I’ll have kids on the team that are not like that and said I’ll be above kids on the team and be smarter than them. He said the way you were raised at Elder makes the Notre Dame professors really like you.
“He said you’re a good kid and most Elder kids are and that Notre Dame professors really like a kid who is outgoing and will talk to them and that they are always willing to help you out with projects and stuff. So he said the Elder to Notre Dame is a great fit.”
By making an early commitment Kraemer understand anything can happen between now and the time he’ll sign his letter of intent. Not only was Rudolph able to help him understand the business side of college football, Kraemer’s own father was also able to help his son understand there are only so many things he can control.
“I talked with Kyle and my father about that too,” he said. “Kyle said make sure the school is the right fit. He said forget coaching staffs and make sure the school is right. My dad left Vanderbilt early because his coach got fired, so we talked about it and he said it was one of the biggest mistakes of his life and said coaching staffs can leave and that you have to stick through it.
“So I have definitely thought about all of that and I’m going to take the chance and hope there are no changes in the staff. However, if it happens, I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get there. But I’m in love with the school, the campus and the atmosphere. So if a coach leaves I’ll still have that aspect of it.”
Looking back Kraemer has often been surprised by the wealth of knowledge his father has been able to share with him.
“He’s helped a lot,” he said. “Even in just coaching me. He knows so much more about football, a lot more than I thought he did. So he’s give me great advice on how to handle recruiting and to just keep my head and not get too big of a head and to keep my priorities right.”
As for when the day comes to go down the tunnel and finally take his spot in the end zone he use to look down upon, Kraemer hasn’t really thought that far ahead.
“I really can’t imagine it right now,” he said. “It’s going to be a special day I can tell you that much.”
Interview With Tommy Kraemer July 2014