Quite to the surprise of many in attendance, the mysterious number belonged to a familiar face. It belongs to Duval Kamara, who has been sporting the number since arrived to fall camp. The receiver's followers don't have to be concerned, however, as the change in number isn't permanent. Head coach Charlie Weis is making an example of his sophomore receiver, much in the way he did with former Irish standout, Maurice Stovall.
"Similar to a conversation I had with Maurice Stovall a few years ago, I felt that in the spring time [Kamara] looked kind of sluggish," Weis said. "Too many times receivers think that getting bigger is better. In his case I feel that he needed to knock off some weight to get leaner. And I told him that I wanted the second number to be a ‘one.' After that ‘two' first number, I want the second number to be a ‘one.' And it is not yet a ‘one.' So when it is a ‘one' he will not have 60."
Weis said that Kamara weighed in the first day at 224 pounds and the following day shed a pound to clock in at 223. According to the Hoboken, NJ. native, however, his summer weight was over 10 lbs. more than that. When asked how much his weight climbed to, Kamara said 235, due to a combination of added work in the weight room and careless diet.
"It was a little bit of both," Kamara said with a laugh referring to his eating habits and lifting routine. "But I'm working down now. I'm in the right direction, so we'll just make it taking steps."
Listening to coach Weis' advice, Kamara realized it was time to get leaner, and has since implemented a strict workout to ensure he can return to his customary number 18.
"I'm coming in at 5:30 in the morning," Kamara said. "Just to get in an Olympic pool or the treadmill. Just fat-burning things."
Part of the reason that Kamara has had no doubts with Weis' instruction is because of his track record with previous receivers, such as Stovall. Weis also alluded to Bill Parcells dealings with former 1st-overall pick, Keyshawn Johnson.
"That's something that I didn't understand years ago, coaching receivers," Weis said. "I didn't understand that cutting weight down from receivers was important. I mentioned Parcells yesterday. He made Keyshawn drop about 15 pounds, and Keyshawn complained every single day. But when he dropped the weight, he had one of the best years he ever had."
Kamara is well aware of the success Weis' receivers have had in both the collegiate and professional levels, so listening to advice from his head coach isn't like pulling teeth. Offering a glimpse of his personality, Kamara takes his challenges in stride, laughing about them, but at the same time, ensuring that his goals come to fruition.
To reach his goal of 219 pounds, he will have to go through sacrifices, which, after a while he has become used to.
"I've cut out all the fast food," Kamara said. "I've basically been eating in the dining hall, a lot of vegetables. At first it was [hard.] But you get used to it after a while."
What has been the most difficult food to eliminate? "Probably the chicken," he said with a smile. In the end, however, it will be worth it in his point of view as he looks towards his final goal — to win.
"My expectations are to help the team win," Kamara said. "First downs, touchdowns, just trying to help us win."
So what did the sophomore receiver do this summer to help him attain his objectives?
"A typical summer day was coming in for workouts, class, and coming in a little later to work out again," he said. "It was basically just a day-to-day basis. We might get in on a little 7-on-7's or something like that with just the guys."
One aspect of Kamara that is noticeably different from this season compared with last year is his confidence in his ability. Coming into action early as a freshman, he wasn't sure what to expect, but still was one of the squad's most productive receivers, picking up a team-high four touchdowns and second-best with 32 receptions. Now that he is essentially a veteran when compared to the rest of the Irish receiving corps, he knows what he is capable of.
"It just boosts your confidence when you go out there knowing what's to come against other teams and how the other guys are," Kamara said.
Part of this maturation came from his due diligence of analyzing film and completing his homework. "It also comes down to watching film," he said. "Definitely a big part as a freshman is watching film and understanding the game better helps a lot."
Although his weight isn't quite where it should be, and only two days of practice have elapsed, Weis is already impressed with the progress of his second-year receiver.
"He had a really good practice yesterday," Weis said. "Maybe I should leave him at 60. He had a nice day. He has very good hands and at times been inconsistent. It would be one thing if he didn't have good hands, but if you have good hands but drop the ball sometimes then that just becomes a level of consistency."
As the 2008 season comes to a start, much has been made to Weis' desire to find players who fit the mold of "diving right in." According to Kamara, he's a perfect example of just that.
"It's about just diving in, and not worrying about what's going on," he said. "Just not being afraid, hitting full speed and just going at it. Moving on, it's not thinking about the past, about 2007, about the mistakes you made earlier in practice and just keep moving on and trying to work harder on the next play."