The last time Matthew Bauer was in Notre Dame Stadium it was almost empty.
The junior linebacker checked out the program in June for Irish Invasion, staged in the stadium with only prospects, coaches, families and media in attendance. On Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Erie, Pa., returned as an Irish commitment and was part of Notre Dame’s 250th straight sellout.
Obviously, it was a different kind of experience.
“It went well,” Bauer said. “I got to see everything. It was exciting. I like all the traditions. It was neat to see.”
Bauer and his parents, girlfriend and his girlfriend’s father left Erie at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning and arrived in South Bend about seven hours later.
They spent the next few hours touring campus and mingling with the Irish coaches and other visiting prospects.
“We took some pictures and they showed us the campus again,” he said. “We got to see the locker room and then we watched the game.”
Bauer was especially impressed by how the defense stepped up its game from Week 1 to Week 2.
“I think they came together,” he said. “We got to listen to coach (Brian) Kelly after the game. He was pretty adamant about how they stepped it up from the week before and left the past in the past. They did what they had to do this week to get the job done.”
He also spoke with several players including Jonathan Jones, Asmar Bilal and Nyles Morgan.
“They said they can’t wait to get me there and will help me get through the process,” Bauer said.
Bauer also spoke briefly with Kelly, Mike Elston and Brian VanGorder.
One highlight of the trip was meeting future teammates Markese Stepp, Pete Werner and C.J. Holmes. Bauer will return to South Bend next weekend and hopes to meet even more of Notre Dame’s committed prospects.
On Friday, Bauer recorded three sacks to help Cathedral Prep move to 3-0 with a 31-15 win over rival McDowell.
“We were rolling,” he said. “We came out and let them score right away, which was disappointing. Then we started getting into it and the whole team was doing well. We were getting sacks and tackling, not just tackling, we were killing them. It was a great game.”
He also lined up in the offensive backfield at times.
“They keep me mostly on defense but that was fun,” he said. “It’s a change of pace in the game and you have to be more into it.”