Steve Filer devoted a large portion of his last summer as a high-school senior to improving his strength, speed and explosion. Not only was this six-month session demanding on the body, but on the mind as well.
"The workouts were pretty hard," Filer said. "They tested you mentally as well as physically, just because you want to get better and you want to be the best person you could be. Those workouts made or broke us."
Among other things Filer had to push and pull sleds in addition to various other strength-training techniques. The prowler was the most punishing drill he said he has ever confronted in his career.
"We had to do things like pull sleds," Filer said. "We had to push this other sled called the prowler, which is one of the hardest workouts I've ever done in my life … The prowler is basically a sled. And you have to bend down and push it with your leg muscles and [my trainer] adds weight on that … so we had to push that maybe 30 yards, there and back."
Part of the reason that Filer was able to get through the drill was because of his teammate, Darius Fleming, who is also from Chicago. Since Fleming played at St. Rita High School, he actually faced Filer several times throughout each other's career. After Fleming committed last April, he struck up a rapport with Filer and have since been excellent friends.
"He's a good player," Fleming said of his classmate. "I really enjoy playing with him and I think [playing next to each other] is going to work out for the best."
In his senior season, Filer picked up 107 tackles and returned his only interception for a touchdown — coincidentally against St. Rita. Even though Filer currently has bragging rights with Mount Carmel's win in their last meeting as opponents, he isn't one to rub defeat in the faces of others.
"Not at all," Filer said. "We both had big respect for each other's school's, so it's not a rivalry at all."
This attitude plays into his overall demeanor on and off the field, showing that his play will do all the talking.
"No, I don't really do it at all," he said. "I'm not really into trash talking."
So how has the transition been for Filer thus far?
"The transition has been kind of hard in some areas," he said. "They're bigger, faster, stronger. We just have to adjust and get back to doing the things you normally do well."
There have been some eye-opening experiences for Filer, largely stemming from the fact that although he had a solid reputation in Chicago, he must start anew in South Bend.
"The hardest thing for me to do was to realize that, while I was the man in Chicago, I'm not the man and have to start all over again," he said. "That's basically the transition I have to go through."
This was something he realized he was going to have to undergo fairly quickly.
"How quickly did I figure that out?" he said. "The first day of practice. The first day of practice, I had to come to terms with that I was just a regular player here and now I have to start all over. I saw Mo Crum and I saw Brian Smith and I saw Scott Smith and all those guys playing and doing what they're supposed to do."
One transition he has had to deal with is the learning of the system and picking up on the coaching styles of linebacker's coach Jon Tenuta and head coach Charlie Weis.
"I've learned a lot," Filer said. "In terms of coach Tenuta telling me what he expects, and things like that. It's just that in my school we ran pretty much a 3-4 defense, so a lot of the responsibilities are pretty much the same, but they have me playing a different position. They have me playing the Sam, so I just have to basically re-learn the defense."
One thing Filer is quickly getting used to is the attacking philosophy of the Irish defensive unit — a quality that he feels he can help improve.
"Oh, I love the attacking philosophy of this defense," he said. "There's a lot of blitzes. There's a lot of plays where the linebackers can roam free, just like [Maurice] Crum. You see him blitz all the time, last year and things like that. So I love the attacking philosophy."
As the fall practice schedule begins to wind down, Filer has been soaking in all his responsibilities and learning new techniques and patterns daily. Despite all this, he knows that he is still a freshman and that there are other players ahead of him who have paid their dues in the program.
"Well I just have to realize that me coming from high school, there's a lot of guys that are here, that have been for a long time," Filer said. "They're playing because they've been in those situations before and they have the experience."
Because of this, Filer doesn't anticipate any frustrations with being patient to see the field. According to him, he's learning from the best.
"I don't think it would be hard to be patient," he said. "Just because I'm learning from the best. You've got Mo Crum, you've got Scott Smith who's been around the program for a long time, that knows the plays and knows everything the coaches want him to do, so all I have to do is sit back and relax and take notes from them and I'll be a good player."