Charlie Weis has already started calling David Ruffer - who never played football before walking on, but never playing at William & Mary last year - Rudy.
"The longest of long shots. Because first of all the, way compliance rules are these days, really what are the odds that you're going to get somebody in this circumstance cleared to go ahead and play?" said Weis. "I still wouldn't believe it until I saw it myself. I had to actually see the paperwork before I believed it myself."
If roster numbers allow for it, Notre Dame will occasionally accept walk-ons in the fall, but in most instances walk-ons are evaluated in the spring and invited back in the fall, which was the expected track for Ruffer.
"David Ruffer contacted us toward the end of August about the possibility of walking on for football," said Weis. "He was at William & Mary last year and we basically told him that we would be very interested in him coming out for the football team in the spring when the normal walk-ons matriculate. Well, as we had our kicking woes that we were going through and doing our due diligence, having already exhausted many alternatives including the soccer team and a few other places, we started scouring campus. And we revisited David and starting working with compliance."
In a rare set of circumstances, Notre Dame was told that Ruffer was eligible immediately because he was not recruited by either William & Mary or Notre Dame, never received any financial aid for athletics and was granted a release from William & Mary.
"Because if the kid couldn't kick this year, what good was it going to do us to bring him in now, midway through the season?" Weis asked. "At that point Brian (Polian) watched him kick. Brian came back to me and said, ‘You might want to peek at this kid.'
"I watched him kick and I said, ‘C'mon let's go.'"
Ruffer was added to the roster last Tuesday as Brandon Walker's backup at placekicker. Per NCAA rules, players have to go through three practice sessions before being able to wear full pads and Ruffer was in full pads for the first time this Wednesday.
"He kicked Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, surprisingly well," said Weis. "After his first kick everyone thought it was Luke (Schmidt) actually out there kicking because he was wearing number 32. But then as the next one went through and the next one went through and the next one went through, it wasn't a joke anymore. What started as a one-man Gong Show no longer was a laughing matter."
But the players did enjoy the show.
"It was quite entertaining," Weis said. "Some kid out here, you've never seen the kid before in your life, maybe a couple kids know him from on campus, and all of a sudden the kid kicks a 25-yarder and then it's a 35-yarder and then it's a 45-yarder. You're looking, saying, ‘Where's this kid been?'"
Ruffer proved himself in front of his new teammates.
"The kid kicked in front of the team two days in a row and basically didn't miss a kick in those two days," said Weis. "Now Brandon did very well as well. But the thing that got me, even when we went full speed and there was live bullets out there, it looked like this was one of the guys that had been on your team for quite some time and was competing to participate."
Since he's never kicked in a game before, Weis guessed that the 100-plus guys on the team represented Ruffer's largest audience.
"Obviously it will be a little different when there's 50, 60, 70,000 people there. But I can just see what happens if he makes a couple of kicks and then comes home last week," he said. "You want to talk about cult hero status? But let's start with baby steps right now. Just the fact that through this process he's gotten to the point to get himself on the bus in such a short time frame, he's made up a lot of ground in a short amount of time."
Weis confirmed that Walker was still the top kicker, but said that Ruffer could get a chance to kick either extra points or field goals.
"There's a possibility he'll kick in the game. Brandon will definitely start off kicking extra points and field goals," Weis said. "If the situation presents itself, yes he would kick in the game."
Weis elaborated on what those situations could be.
"The one guy having a bad day or enough kicking opportunities in the game. They're the two logical answers," he said. "I mean if there's only a couple of kicking opportunities in the game and everything is going well with Brandon then Brandon will kick them."
It's clear that Ruffer's performance has Weis hoping to be able to get him a chance.
"I'd love to put him out there. But it has to be the right situation," he said. "This is not some courtesy guy that we've let on the team."
OTHER WEIS HITS: Senior receiver David Grimes is still listed as doubtful for Saturday's game.
"His status hasn't changed," Weis said.
Also, Weis was asked what he remembered from the 2005 game and the decision to run the Pass Right play with the Irish backed up on their own goal line.
"Probably the look on (Brady) Quinn's face when he thought I had lost my mind," he laughed. "We wanted to make sure that we were doing the right thing. Trust me, if we would have come out there and we would have gotten a safety on the first play and no one would have known about it, I would have gladly taken the hits. If everyone would have said, ‘What a dumb call by Weis.' No one would have ever known the story, I would have gladly accepted that as well.
"Because I believe that I had an obligation, I had an obligation and that's what we were going to do. But Quinn definitely thought I had lost my mind."