Freshman Class Like Family

After having one of the worst seasons in school history, the fact that Charlie Weis and his staff were able to assemble one of the finest talent grabs in recent years has to be one of the greatest recruiting tales. But the Class of 2008 means more than that to many Irish die-hards for whom the class represents almost tangible evidence that seasons like 2007 are in the past.

From Michael Golic, Jr.'s pledge that came from across the Atlantic in February of 2007 to the revealing of Kapron Lewis-Moore as the so-called "mystery commit" in February of 2008, Notre Dame's latest recruiting class was a tight bunch and that bond has only continued now that they are all enrolled and going through their first preseason camp together.

On Friday, the media was allowed to talk to the newcomers for the first time since they arrived on campus.

"The bond was good during recruitment, but I think now that we're all together it's like ten times better," said freshman center Braxston Cave. "Getting to see everybody everyday, getting to hang out, it's like a brotherhood. It's grown a lot actually since we've become students here at Notre Dame."

One player used the word ‘family' to describe the group.

"We're just so good together, it was really a family connection as soon as we met," defensive lineman Brandon Newman recalled. "I remember the first time I met Dayne Crist, I reached out to for a handshake and he just gave me a big hug. That's the way we are as a team. This class is just great, we're all great together."

Crist made it his own personal mission to make sure that the group stayed close during the recruiting period and has big goals for the group.

"This class is something special. There's just something about us. We all just mesh real well. We're all about making the team better," Crist said. "We all have the same mindset that we want to win national championships and we want to do that with the rest of the guys on the team. As a class, I'm really happy about this class and I think we're going to do some special things."

Golic gave Weis his verbal commitment while on a school trip in Italy and said that it was great to watch the rest the class take shape.

"It was definitely a great bond between our class. It's been a lot of fun to get to know these guys during the recruiting process and through the year last year just sticking together and banding together," Golic said. "We tried to take as many visits together as we could. It's definitely been a great experience getting to know these guys. It's a great group of guys."

The terrible season that Notre Dame had in 2007 made things rough on the commits, but they were able to use it as a rallying cry.

"When we first came in here everybody always tried to tell us, ‘Who would come to a school like this that had a bad season last year?' We used that as fuel to make us even closer together," defensive lineman Hafis Williams said.

For the California recruits, like Joseph Fauria, there was even more pressure.

"Especially for me, I'm from California, me, Anthony (McDonald) and Dayne," Fauria said. "Being in SC territory, you get hassled a lot about committing to a school that didn't do so hot. But this school has tradition, it's coming up, great coaching staff, great players and the reason why we committed here was to make the team better and get a chance to play."

Wide receiver John Goodman, who committed in March, noticed the connection right away.

"This class has a great bond, since day one. Since the first commit to the last commit we've all known each other, we got each other's number, we've all talked so much," he said. "From the All-American game to the…time we got here over the summer, we've all just been really close. I don't think any other class has had the opportunity to be like that."

The Irish had 14 pledges playing in the Army All-American Game down in San Antonio in January and the group became close, maybe even too close.

"When we were in San Antonio, a lot of us were so close and we all hung out and things like that. I was telling everybody else, ‘We need to start meeting new people. We need to hang out with other people, we're going to be together for the next four years of our lives,'" joked Newman.

Lewis-Moore was the last guy to jump on board and admitted that since he didn't get to know all of the guys that well, he was a little hesitant to believe it.

"When I first was getting recruited by Notre Dame I really didn't know the other guys, I didn't play in the Army All-American Game. Coach Ianello was the one that was recruiting me and he was just telling me about how this class was real special. ‘Everybody likes everybody,' and ‘You're not going to be the only one away from home,' and stuff like that. Because that was one of my biggest fears, being away from home," Lewis-Moore said. "When I came up for my official visit, Joe Fauria, he was with me. The first minute I stepped on campus we just kind of instantly bonded and were just real cool from the start.

"When we were up here he was just telling me how the whole class was real cool and everybody's cool with everybody. At first I was a little hesitant because I was like it sounds too good to be true, but after I committed and signed and everything I came here for the spring game and it just kind of showed how everybody was."

Now that Lewis-Moore has been around the group more he sees it everyday.

"We're always hanging out with each other. If we do something we're usually going in groups of four or five, eating at the dining hall almost everyday together," he said. "We're just helping each other out with homework and everything like that, so it's just real cool."

McDonald said that the entire group is like that.

"We all know each other pretty well. We all get along really well, I don't think there is one person that sticks out as an outcast," McDonald said. "We have a really close bond in this class and I think as a whole team too here. We all get along with the upperclassmen pretty well too."

Cave is from nearby Granger and was as responsible as anyone for making the class the tight group that is by hosting recruits almost every weekend.

"With us being close to home it was the least we could do. After I committed we wanted the best guys to come to Notre Dame and if that's what we had to do to help get them here that's what we'd do," said Cave, who agreed that everyone is tight. "We really don't have a clique or anything like that. We're a team now and we just try to hang out with everybody."

Goodman says that entire class has the right mindset.

"Not only do these guys want to play football, DI, they want to play football here. That's why they chose this place, obviously, not only for the football, to make the team better, but to go to school here and get a great education," he said. "That shows that we all have our heads screwed on straight and that we're all ready to go. We don't really have any guys that are thinking about going a couple of years and leaving for the pros, we have a bunch of guys that want to go four years and I think that has a lot to do with the morale of the team."


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