Greetings

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen, meet the Notre Dame media. Notre Dame media, I'd like you to meet the most scrutinized player to sign with Notre Dame since Ron Powlus. Now lets clear some things up and get to know each other.

It's going to take a few more interview sessions, before anyone can get a read on Clausen. The Irish signal-caller was well trained with the company line his first time through with the Irish media. Although he mentioned nothing about trying to get on the bus. In a nutshell, he said he is just trying to compete with Demetrius Jones and Evan Sharpley for the right to start the season opener against Georgia Tech on Sept. 1.

As the rest of Clausen's classmates took a seat in their own row inside the meeting room of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex for freshmen media day on Friday, the signal-caller from Westlake, Village, Calif. sat at the table in the front, where Irish head coach Charlie Weis sits during his interview with the press.

Weis normally says fire away (with questions) when he sits down. Clausen, with several microphones and tape recorders in front of him, had an opening statement.

"Hi everyone," he began. "I know a lot of you guys have questions about my health and other issues, so I just wanted to first off start and address these issues so we can talk about football.

"Following spring practice, I had a procedure on my elbow to arthroscopically remove a bone spur. It was a minor set back and I've been rehabbing ever since. I've been throwing and practicing everyday, and my status right now is day-to-day.

"In regards to my recent legal issue, I used bad judgment in being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I've learned from my mistake and I'm obviously now more informed about the Indiana state law.

"I'll have no further comment about these issues and I'm here to talk about Notre Dame football."

Clausen wore a smile on his face through the 20 minutes of questioning. He says he isn't fazed by the people and reporters that don't know him and don't like him. He said he was looking forward to getting a chance to meet with the Notre Dame media and talk about who he is.

"I'm just a laid back kid from California," Clausen said. "I'm a teammate. I like hanging out with the guys having a lot of fun, just being a college student and a college athlete."

However, Clausen will never be just a college student and college athlete. His face has appeared on ESPN and in national magazines more than the majority of his Irish teammates combined. He was tabbed the LeBron James of high school football after going 42-0 as a starter and leading Oaks Christian High to four straight CIF-Southern Section championships.

Everyone outside of the Notre Dame football program is trying to find out a little bit about Clausen. Not just who he is, but how is the elbow? Where is he on the depth chart? How does he look in practice? Is he a good kid? Is he a troublemaker?

"It's good being in the spotlight," Clausen said. "You get a lot of praise, sometimes you don't get a lot of praise and you get backlash and stuff like that. It's just great to be a part of Notre Dame and be a quarterback at Notre Dame."

But Clausen didn't come to Notre Dame to be a quarterback at Notre Dame. He came to South Bend to be the quarterback at Notre Dame. He enrolled early and played through spring football with his sites set on the starting job vacated by Brady Quinn. He made the first cut of the competition, as Weis eliminated the now-transferred Zach Frazer from the sweepstakes heading into fall camp.

The so called "day-to-day" elbow thing, has that hampered Clausen at all this fall? He says it hasn't, but many of the rumors say otherwise.

"I'm just getting ready and competing to try and start on Sept. 1," Clausen said "I just use the word day-to-day to talk about my elbow."

If Clausen isn't ready on Sept. 1, or if he doesn't win the job, there is many reasons to think he still has a chance to start sometime this season. Experts rave that his mechanics are flawless. He has a good arm, and at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Clausen is beginning to look more like a college player, and not that skinny prep superstar. But the number one reason, is the fact that Clausen can slow things down happening on the field in front of him faster than most other people that play the game.

It only took Clausen two days to get used to the tempo of major college football. It only took him one morning practice to adjust to things in San Antonio at the U.S. Army All-American game. Clausen credits his Army game experience with helping him adjust quickly at Notre Dame.

"I honestly don't know," Clausen said when asked how he is able to do that.

Well, it's a gift.

Another gift that Clausen has, is that guys are drawn to him. In San Antonio, it was easy to see he was one of the most popular players among the other All-Americans. Every time you looked over at him, he was laughing with whoever he was with. Same holds true for most Notre Dame practices when the media gets to watch for 20 minutes. You can tell the guys on the team really like him. And even with students, as Clausen was laughing it up with classmates outside of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex following his interview. Weis raves about Clausen's personality, saying, "you're really going to like him."

Unfortunately for Jones and Sharpley, if one of those guys wins the starting job, they will have the aura of Clausen breathing down their neck. Every bad throw, every bad play, someone will comment on the freshman with the clipboard standing next to Weis on the sideline. It's not fair since whoever starts walks into a very difficult eight-game stretch to start their career. Win the majority of those games, and their job is secure, but struggle and the grass is always greener on the other side.

If Clausen does start at some point this season, maybe the media will get to know the guy everyone else likes a little better.


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