Life as a Freshman

<P>What's it like to be a freshman football player at Notre Dame? Irish Eyes sat down with freshman center prospect John Sullivan and wide receiver prospect Jeff Samardzija to talk about life as a freshman. Both had a lot to say about their experiences at Notre Dame so far. </P>

John Sullivan is already a big man tipping the scale at 300 pounds. Sullivan spent a lot of time at Notre Dame this summer working out with the team and might have put himself into a position of seeing some playing time.

Sullivan says life is good so far as a freshman. "I think I've been picking up what the coaches have been telling me pretty well," said Sullivan. "We've had the past two days off so I think all the freshmen that came back today took a little time to get back into the swing of things. I don't think we're missing too much of a beat with the older guys. We might have a tad bit slower reaction time but once we get in there I think we're all doing a pretty good job."

Wide receiver Jeff Samardzija is sporting a new haircut. One is not quite clear on if the new "doo" was actually Jeff's idea. "The new haircut, it's different, it's taking some getting used to," said Samardzija. "I don't think I've ever short hair in my entire life. It's actually not bad when you get out there and it's a little cooler out there so that's not a bad thing. I'm ready for it to grow back though."

Samardzija has really impressed Irish Eyes on the field with his hands and his athletic ability. Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick has said he is looking for maybe one or two freshmen receivers to play this year—Samardzija is a good bet to be one of them. "That's just going to come with time," said Samardzija about playing this year. "You don't know and that just a decision that will be made by the coaches. All you can do is give what you have and hope for the best."

Playing offensive line is different from any other position we believe. There is a brotherhood that is formed and Sullivan feels he's been accepted into the brotherhood already. "I get along very well with the other offensive linemen," said Sullivan. "Right now as a freshman you spend time off the field with your freshmen class, you're bonding together, you eat together and you will have classes together. Once we get on the field I think the offensive line is getting tighter and tighter everyday. We're all working really well together. They've all been trying to help me out and I appreciate that."

Sullivan has had his first experience of going against some very big and very strong defensive line. He says he might not have all the technique down yet but he's trying to make up for that with attitude. "What I'm trying to do is to block from whistle to whistle and a lot of times going beyond it. A lot of the older guys get mad at you but you know what, that's football. It's the same attitude Jeff Faine had here and that's what I'm trying to emulate. I think we are all trying to play with that attitude and be real aggressive. It's not always the strongest guy that wins—it's the guy who has the most heart and the most attitude and is willing to put it all out there."

The life of a freshman football player at Notre Dame takes a lot of adjustment. Samardzija says that the biggest adjustment has been mental for him. "It's a big mental game with yourself. You could have one day where you're on top of your game—you're making every play and there's other days when it's not clicking and you wonder what you are doing out here. You get caught up in the playing time thing; you want to do everything you can to get on the field. Most of the time you think too much and you try to do too much and you end up getting out of your game. You've just go enjoy the good days and work hard and try not to let the bad days get you down."

Wide receivers coach Trent Miles is a talker on the field. He can be known to get on a player when they are not living up to his standards but also congratulates a player when he does well. Miles can get pretty loud out there. "I didn't say that, you said that," said Samardzija of Miles' volume on the field. "That's just his style. He does it in a positive way. He's not out there to put anyone down. When he's doing that, you don't think of it that way—you listen to what he's saying. You don't listen to how loud his voice is or his tone, you know that he's trying to help you improve and to do it right next time so the team can be successful."

Sullivan also has an animated coach in John McDonell. Sullivan loves his coaching style because he says McDonell is just another offensive lineman out there. "That's a great coaching style for an offensive lineman. The way I think of offensive linemen are as big dogs, you've got to be rough with them but you love them--that's what Coach Mac does. He' rough on you and he'll jump on you when you mess up but when you do something right he's throwing his hands up in the air, he's running down field, he's almost involved the play. I love it, his intensity fires up all of us. So far Coach McDonell has been a great coach for me."

Both Samardzija and Sullivan have been getting a lot of reps with the team. The real test will be the next few weeks as the team starts to prepare for Washington State. Irish Eyes has no idea if either will see the field this year but we are confident that both will play and often for the Irish in the future.

The Irish are in the middle of fall camp right now and Irish Eyes has been at every practice finding the latest inside scoop. Do you want to know how of the offensive line is progressing? How does Julius Jones? You will find it all in a Total Access Pass for Irish Eyes as well as updates on almost every player on the 2003 roster. Don't miss out on all the inside scoop.

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