It's been a long journey for David Bruton from a special teams contributor as a freshman to the unquestioned leader of Notre Dame's most veteran unit.
Bruton appeared in 11 games on special teams as a freshman in 2005, but did not get his first real look a big time college football until 2006, particularly when he came on to replace Chinedum Ndukwe against Southern Cal. The Trojans won 44-24 and the sophomore safety had a difficult time staying with the Trojans receivers, but he said that in the long run it made him better.
"It stays with me, it's how I was broken in. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and that game definitely made me a lot in stronger in the sense of getting beat or getting beat deep or everything like that," he said. "I've learned a lot from that experience."
So how long did that experience stay with him?
"It stays with you until people stop texting you about it," he laughed.
Bruton talked about the feeling young players get when they first have the chance to see the field.
"You feel like you've got to make every single play. You feel like you've got to make a name for yourself, but you've just got to realize that you don't get to make every play," he said. "Not every play is going to come your way and when the opportunity comes you've got to seize the moment."
Bruton became a full-time starter as a junior and now entering his senior year he is confident that he is ready to seize those moments and feels that his role on this defense is to do just that.
"I feel like a free safety can (control the game)," he said. "Big hits, big plays, interceptions for touchdowns can just change the whole momentum of the game. You just need game-changers and playmakers and at free safety you get a lot of (opportunities) when you get a chance to sit back there and roam."
Bruton probably won't get the chance to make as many plays as Notre Dame's last game-breaking safety but Bruton said that he learned a lot from Tom Zbikowski.
"I still want to punt return," joked Bruton, who returned one punt for 11 yards in 2007. "He made plays especially my freshman year, he got out on the field and showcased his ability. He made a lot of big plays and that's what a safety needs to do just make plays and come down field and handle your responsibilities. He did that well."
Now as a leader of the team, Bruton's job is to make sure that the younger guys don't go through too many moments like he had as a youngster.
"We have to keep the team on the right track, got to keep them focused and not have a blurred vision," he said. "We've got one goal and that's to win that game. We've got to keep that mentality throughout the whole season we can't start having doubts."
LAMBERT CALM UNDER PRESSURE: Fifth-year senior Terrail Lambert is another experienced member of the Irish secondary and says that after 22 starts at cornerback, he feels at home on his island.
"With the experience comes a new level of composure that you have especially in my position. If anything you thrive off of the pressure. I know I myself personally, I love those high-pressure situations," Lambert said. "While the typical person might be nerve-wrecked, to me it's like a comfort zone because you're so used to being on that island when you've been doing it for so long. You just go out there and move and react."
CRUM TELLS FROSH WHAT TO EXPECT: Fifth-year senior linebacker Maurice Crum makes it a practice to be sure that all of the rookies feel comfortable in the program. With the season-opener approaching, Crum is giving advice to any freshman that will listen as to how to handle the circus atmosphere that will come this weekend.
"The first thing I tell them is to make sure you've got everything else taken care of. It gets pretty crazy around here and you don't want to be worried about too many things," said Crum. "I try to tell them to make sure their minds are on football so they can focus on what they're supposed to do and don't get lost in the mix or get scared or too nervous. That's the first thing I tell them and then I tell them this is the game that you've been playing all your life. It's at a higher level, but it's the same game that you've been playing all your life and you'll get used to it."
CLAUSEN ON CLARKSON: The addition of this year's freshman class brought in two more disciples from quarterback guru Steve Clarkson. Clarkson is well known for his tutelage of Jimmy Clausen and Clausen talked about the relationship briefly on Saturday.
"Steve has been a great guy to me and my family. He's been a real good family friend to us. I've known him since my brothers were in high school, he worked with my brothers Casey and Rick," said Clausen. "He's helped a lot of guys like Dayne (Crist) and Nate (Montana). It's a great relationship that I have with him. It's both mentally and physically, he does it all."
AZTECS BEAT AND BEAT UP: San Diego State suffered some key injuries to its defensive line during Saturday's 29-27 loss to Cal-Poly.
Starting defensive end Tony DeMartinis suffered a season-ending knee injury while defensive ends Eric Ikonne (sprained ankle) and Ryan Williams (concussion) were banged up as was defensive tackle Jerome Long (sprained ankle).
But San Diego State head coach Chuck Long is hoping that defensive end Siaosi Fifita, who sat out the opener with a knee injury, will be ready for the Notre Dame game.