Prince's Speed Impresses Many

It's a pretty nice day when head coach Charlie Weis can compliment one of his players. It's even better when that player is a freshman on the first day of practice. That's what happened two weeks ago when Weis mentioned running back Munir Prince and his blazing speed. Weis loves speed and this freshman got the head man's attention. Other people had to tell Prince of the good words.

"Actually someone told me about it because I'm not too big in going to the Internet and reading articles," Prince said on Monday. "I was kind of tired in camp. I didn't have time for that. Somebody told me about it and I was like, ‘Cool.'

"It's kind of hard to get a compliment from him. So anytime he says something good about you, you take it and roll with it."

"It's great to get one (a compliment). But anytime you get one, you don't want to take it to heart. The next day, he could talk you down. You have to be ready to take everything."

The next day, the media gathered around Prince as he participated in individual drills. Weis came over and gave him some good-natured ribbing, calling his freshmen back a "cult hero."

But it's this type of attention that draws head coaches to speed guys. With Travis Thomas moving over to linebacker, it's a major opportunity to earn some reps at the second-team running back spot. Darius Walker is the unquestioned starter but that leaves Prince in a battle with freshman Luke Schmidt and junior Junior Jabbie for the backup carries. Prince earned the Gatorade Player of the Year award for Missouri in 2005 after he scored 26 total touchdowns and ran for over 1,300 yards at DeSmet Jesuit High School in St. Louis. The speed factor could vault him ahead of the competition. Prince said he clocked a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash a few weeks before coming to campus.

"With me being a small guy, it just kind of came to me," Prince said, who stands at 5-10. "I use it to get by and make plays. I've had the speed since junior high and it's been one of my trademarks.

"I think with my speed, I can make plays for us. I can maybe get some kickoffs and take a few for some long returns. I want to make something happen on the field."

Prince has a close ally among the freshmen class that has made his transition a bit easier. Running back James Aldridge was Prince's junior high school teammate in the St. Louis, MO area. Aldridge moved to Crown Point, IN after his sophomore year to attend Merrillville High School.

But this did not stop the friendship as the two talked over the phone at least once a week. Prince committed first to Notre Dame while his buddy, James, soon followed suit. Aldridge enrolled early back in January to get a head start on the playbook and adjustment to college life. He's been helping Prince in whatever way that he can, whether that's off the field or on the field at the running back position.

"James has been a real help to me," Prince said. "We've been friends since we were seven years old. Coming in and having someone that you're used to was pretty good. He's been helping me with the playbook and getting me accustomed to Notre Dame and coming out here.

"We're just trying to make this team better. We're a strength at running back. We're committed together to make this team better."

A term that's used constantly for freshmen is "information overload." It's when the coaches throw a ton of new schemes and formations at the new players the first week of fall camp. They must retain one set, move on to the next and learn another. It can be quite overwhelming at times. For Prince, who probably will be asked to make contributions at both running back and on special teams, it's even more critical to grasp the system quickly.

"The first thing you have to do is to get into the playbook and stay focused on that," Prince said. "Sometimes you might have to sacrifice some sleep and stay up until one or two in the morning to study it. But that's how you get over the wall."

Some may have recognized the number Prince wears. It's 25, the same as Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, who earned All-American status and second place for the Heisman Trophy donning the digits. When one thinks of speed at Notre Dame, fans often think about Ismail's numerous game-breaking plays. But Prince didn't pick out the number himself. In maybe a little foreshadowing, the coaching staff chose it for their freshman speedster.

"I was just happy to be on the team and took whatever number was open," Prince said. "Actually, they just gave it to me. I didn't learn about it until my high school track coach told me about it and Rocket. I did some research and saw the history." Top Stories