Game weeks are an event for Kyle Rudolph's entourage.
"You can ask guys around here, when it's a game weekend, there is usually a pretty big crew that comes up only being four hours away," Rudolph said. "So they travel pretty heavy."
They travel pretty excited as well.
In the opener against San Diego St., the 6-foot-6, 252-pound Rudolph became the first freshman tight end in Notre Dame history to start game one of the season. When the initial depth chart was released with Rudolph's name at the top of the position, his cell phone chirped non stop.
"I got a lot of phone calls from friends and family members that were just very happy for me, very supportive," Rudolph said. "I have a really large family back home, and phone calls from everyone, everyone was just extremely happy for me."
Irish head coach Charlie Weis is certainly happy to have Rudolph in the lineup. At a position where sophomore Mike Ragone was lost for the season with an ACL injury, and junior Will Yeatman has been suspended for another off-the-field issue, Rudolph is starting to emerge as a budding star in helping the Irish to a 4-2 record at the halfway point of the season.
Rudolph's 14 receptions rank fifth on the team, and he has 166 yards and two touchdowns, in giving quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Weis at least one reliable player at the position. Sophomore Luke Schmidt also hasn't been able to play since the third game of the season because of a concussion.
"That's kind of the joke in the meeting room," Rudolph said of the tight ends. "When we started camp, there was a full meeting room and now it's starting to dwindle down a little bit.
"But those guys are still around a lot. As tight ends we're a very close group, and you still see them in the weight room, you still see them in meetings, and they just might not be on the practice field, but they're still around."
So are Rudolph's family and friends.
Many of the same people that watched Rudolph dominate as a five-star talent at Elder High, were in attendance at the Purdue game where Rudolph caught his first-career touchdown reception.
"Just people that have been in my life the whole time really support me," Rudolph said.
Rudolph verbally committed to Weis and Notre Dame way back in March of 2007. The fifth player to join what ended up being Scout.com's top-ranked recruiting class, waited along time to finally arrive in South Bend. When he did, Rudolph came in with the goal of just getting on the field.
"Just working all summer, your goal is to be No. 1," Rudolph said of the depth chart. "Expectations wise, you just want to get on the field, and knowing that coach Weis uses multiple tight ends, I hoped their was a good opportunity. Then an opportunity presented itself and I made the best I could."
Rudolph is really starting to come on as of late. After having just one catch in the first two games, he had two receptions for 29 yards against Michigan State, three for 32 yards and a score against Purdue, a season-high five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown against Stanford, and three catches for 30 yards last weekend at North Carolina.
"I think it's kind of been a gradual process," Rudolph said. "Just working each day. One of (tight ends) coach (Bernie) Parmalee's big mottos is each day go out and get better. Try to come off the practice field better than you were when you went on it. So for me, it's just been each day going out there and kind of just chipping away at it and over time in the big picture you'll be able to see strides. But each day just go out there and work, do the best you can and improve each day.
"I think just over time, the speed of the game is starting to slow down a little bit and reads are starting to make sense and stuff like that, to where you start to feel okay this is what they were talking about, this is what it's supposed to be like, and like I said over time that starts to stick in your mind, and the next thing you know you don't even realize stuff you're doing that you had to think about before."
Rudolph capped off his prep career as a U.S. Army All-American. Because all three of the East quarterbacks were dual threat, Rudolph was used more as an extra tackle than as a pass catcher during the week of practice and in the game. Rather than sulk about it, Rudolph used the days in San Antonio as an opportunity to get better at what he thought was the part of his game that needed the most work.
Since he started practicing at Notre Dame, Rudolph still identifies blocking as the key area he needs to get better at.
"The really big thing for me was working on technique and fundamentals in the run game," Rudolph explained. "That was something I focused on all summer and into the fall, was working on little things in blocking because the guys I'll be blocking are most of the time bigger than I am or weigh more than I do, so for me it doesn't really have to be a real big kill-shot block, but good technique and fundamentals get the job done.
"Definitely for me, its starting to come natural where before I had to focus on head placement, hands, making sure I kept my hands inside, stuff like that. Now as we go along it's really starting to happen."
So is the regular routine of being a college freshman.
"Everything is going pretty well," Rudolph said. "I'm getting adjusted to school and life outside football along with football. Everything is starting to get into a normal routine and things are starting to slow down. I'm starting to get used to things as time management goes and football practice and football meetings and school and homework, everything is finally starting to get to where you get routines down and you understand your daily schedule."
Rudolph said being the first tight end to ever start the season opener in program history, was a "great honor." The even-keel player added that he hasn't put any pressure on himself to perform at a higher level, just doing what he can to the best of his abilities to help the team win each Saturday.
The touchdown against Purdue has been one of his most memorable experiences thus far.
"That was my highlight of just everything that has gone on," Rudolph began. "Overall, a couple of our wins was pretty exciting. Beating Michigan obviously was very exciting. You talk about the rivalry and we had a great week of practice, a lot of expectations leading into that game, and from a team perspective, being in the locker room after the game, that was one of the most exciting things I've had so far."
There will definitely be more good times over the next three-and-a-half seasons.
With the bumps and bruises that go along with Rudolph's first college campaign, the bye week couldn't of come at a better time.
"We're at the halfway point of our season and now we have a little time away to regroup ourselves physically and mentally and come back next week and get ready for Washington, and hopefully make a nice stretch here the second half of the season," Rudolph said.
Today, Rudolph heads home for a couple of days before he has to worry about the Huskies.
"Just spend some time with my family."
There's something Rudolph definitely loves doing. More fun with the entourage.