Dillon enjoys surreal visit

Junior running back A.J. Dillon had heard many stories about Notre Dame from his grandfather. On Friday he got his first look at the school.

Growing up, A.J. Dillon heard the stories and saw the pictures of Notre Dame in the collection of his grandfather, former Irish All-American receiver Tom Gatewood.

On Friday, Dillon got his first look at the campus, then turned in a strong performance in the Irish Invasion camp at Notre Dame Stadium.

“It was really nice, especially seeing and playing on the same field that my grandfather played and left his mark in the college football world,” said Dillon, a 6-foot, 230-pounder from Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass. “That was very exciting and just to see all the stories I had been hearing from him all the years and I heard about all the wonderful people here and how gorgeous it was. I finally got to see it with my own eyes.”

The Irish coaching staff also got to see Dillon, who already holds scholarship offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Syracuse, Virginia, Massachusetts and Temple.

The Class of 2017 athlete didn’t disappoint.

“We started off with the broad jump and I jumped 10-feet, 4-inches. The coaches were saying that was really impressive, especially being such a bigger guy,” Dillon said. “We did some agilities and once again the coaches said I did really well, especially for my size. We did some passing and running back versus linebacker one-on-ones. I had seven reps and I had seven touchdowns, so I didn’t drop a ball and scored every time.”

Dillon finished the camp by winning the running back position’s 40-yard dash.

“We did a couple more drills, some individual drills, and finished up with the Golden Run, their 40-yard dash. We started at the 10 yard line and finished up at the 50,” Dillon said. “Everybody from your position all ran at the same time and they saw who was the fastest at your position at camp. I won that and I was also the biggest. The coaches said they were impressed. They already like my film and they were impressed with how I showed out at camp being one of the bigger guys.”

The performance was extra special for Dillon knowing his grandfather once played inside the same storied stadium.

“He has a bunch of his old pictures and stories from when he was here at Notre Dame,” Dillon said. “I could see the stadium. It looks exactly the same. They’re trying to add on now but it’s the same exact feel stadium-wise. It was kind of surreal being on the same place he was.”

Notre Dame running backs coach Autry Denson provided Dillon with plenty of positive feedback.

“I heard from a lot of coaches and a lot of people on the side that they thought I was one of the top performers,” Dillon said. “Autry Denson said I was pretty impressive how I was working out there and he was telling me to contact him because he can’t contact me. They want to stay in contact as the recruiting process goes on. I feel like they’re definitely interested.”

In addition to the Irish, Dillon has picked up interest from Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland and a host of others.

The Irish are among his early favorites.

“I’d say Notre Dame for obvious reasons, the academics and football, Virginia and Penn State,” he said. “When I’m looking at a school I’m really looking for a school that if football ended I’d be perfectly fine with a degree from the school. Those schools like Virginia, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan are obviously going to be in the top of the list. Boston College is another one.”

Dillon will camp at Penn State this weekend and he hopes to make several unofficial visits later this summer.

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