Jimmy Clausen has been to Hawai'i a few times, but just to chill.
"I just go out there to relax. I've been on a lot of family vacations out there," the sophomore quarterback said. "Sit on the beach, watch the sunset, the waves crash. It's just a real relaxing, peaceful place."
But next week Clausen and his Notre Dame teammates will head to the lesiure spot for a completely different reason when they take on Hawai'i in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
Clausen does not think his team will have a difficult time balancing business with pleasure.
"I think it'll be fine for the team. It is Hawai'i, it's a beautiful place out there," he said. "There's going to be a lot activities that we're going to be going to, but our main reason is to go out there and beat Hawai'i and have a little fun."
Senior safety Kyle McCarthy knows that the Irish will have to be prepared to play.
"Hawai'i is going to be great and everything, but we're going for a football game and that's our first priority," McCarthy said. "You've got to put the distractions of the trip away. They're playing Notre Dame and I know that they're going to be excited about it. We know we're going to their best shot and we've got to give them ours."
Junior right tackle Sam Young said that there are always distractions, but acknowledged that Hawai'i may offer a few more.
"It's a balancing act. No matter where you go, except maybe Boise, Idaho," Young laughed. "No matter where you go you're going to have distractions. It's about working and keeping up with football."
At the request of the administration and head coach Charlie Weis, the team got together to talk about bowl possibilities. Senior defensive lineman Patrick Kuntz admitted that Hawai'i was his second choice for a bowl destination.
"I voted to play Ball State, but that was before they lost," he said. "Being an Indiana kid it would have been kind of fun to play them, but oh well."
But now Kuntz is eager to see how well his free spirit attitude and the islands mesh.
"It may be one of those dynamic duos for a long time, but we'll just see how it goes," he said. "They might not be ready for me."
Freshman linebacker Darius Fleming said that the rookies were asked their opinions, but that they still know their place.
"We're the younger group so we kind of just follow in their footsteps, we're not the leaders of the team yet," he said. "We know they're going to take us in the right direction so we're basically just going wherever they want to go right now."
The Chicago native is happy with the decision of his elders.
"It's exciting. I've never been there and I probably never will go there again," he said. "I just hope that we can go down as a team and enjoy the experience, but stay focused on the goal of playing in the game and don't let the scenery distract us."
With the Hawai'i Bowl being played the week following final exams, the Irish will get no time off between tests and football, which can be good or bad.
"It's good to get away from football, but that oftentimes causes people to lose focus," said Kuntz. "As long as we're still around each other and still grinding it out, I feel like it's a better situation for us to play earlier rather than later."
McCarthy sees the trip to Honolulu as motivation to get through finals.
"It'll be a nice reward when it's all over to get on the plane and go to Honolulu," he said. "We won't get home for Christmas and eat too much like we might have done, I don't know. But it'll be good to get out to Hawaii and get things moving."
Young will have an extremely short turnaround between exams, Friday night practice and flying to Hawai'i later that evening.
"I've got a final the last time slot on Friday. I'm sitting there, I'm coming right from there getting over here and all of that fun jazz," Young said. "I think it'll be good in the sense that you're kind of keeping the rhythm as opposed to going home and relaxing."
Once the Irish do arrive in Hawai'i, sophomore linebacker Brian Smith plans on making it clear that they are there for football.
"I always do a good job keeping practices spirited and keeping team events spirited with my energy level," said Smith.
NO LONGER A FRESHMAN: For Fleming, his first six months at Notre Dame have flown by while feeling like longer than that. One thing is clear though, the linebacker no longer feels like a freshman.
"I feel like I've been here longer than a year and I've only been here a year, not even that long yet," he said. "It flies by, when you're out there the game flies by and time is just flying by."
Fleming feels like his class has done a good job of acclimating to the next level.
"It took a minute to get used to things," he said. "I feel we've adapted pretty well. It took us a couple of games, but I can't even imagine playing high school football. It's different, I'm just so used to the college level and the speed of it."
So what would Fleming do if he got one last chance to play on a high school field?
"I would pay a lot of money to play in a high school game, that would be exciting to watch," he grinned. "I would never want to go back. Just to think of it, I was just in high school and now I'm here and going to Hawai'i to play in a bowl game. It's just a great experience and I've had a ball doing it. I'm just looking to move forward and take everything I've learned and next year take care of things."
IRISH HAPPY COACHING SITUATION RESOLVED: After the loss to Boston College, Notre Dame players were able to shrug off any talk of a coaching change. That was not the case following losses to Syracuse and Southern Cal.
The Irish admitted that it was a weird week following the regular season with their coach's future up in the air, but are glad that it is over and happy to have him back.
"You try not to pay attention it. Obviously, you're going to hear about it, but that's not our decision to be made so you just kind of take in stride," Young said. "As soon as we got word and we knew everything was going to be all right we just got back to work."
Smith said that the entire feeling around the program was down.
"It was just a dejected kind of feeling within the team, a little dismal feeling. Things weren't as upbeat as they were when we opened up the season 4-1, talking about trying to win the rest of our games and get to a BCS game. We just finished 6-6. We got beat pretty handily by USC," he said.
"The whole situation with Coach Weis, we just waited for it to play out. We knew we didn't have any say in it or anything like that so we just waited for it to play out and whatever situation came out of it that's what we would stick with."
HANGING WITH SNOOP AND SPANK: Clausen and freshman quarterback Dayne Crist showed up recently on E!'s reality show Snoop Dogg's Father Hood.
Snoop's son Corde, a.k.a. Spank, attended a camp that Clausen and Crist were working with famed quarterback guru Steve Clarkson.
"I was a counselor for the quarterback clinic, the Air-7 Academy," Clausen said. "Snoop was out there with his son Spank and just having a good time. We were trying to teach him stuff."
Spank's biggest problem seems to be staying focused and Crist was one of a few guys to tell him about the importance of hard work.
"You're definitely a great athlete, everybody sees that, but it's that extra work. It's working with Steve, studying that playbook and watching the DVDs that separates you from the rest of the pack," Crist told Spank on the show. "There's thousands of people across the country that can throw a football, but it's much more than that and as soon as you see that, you're going to be great."
Clausen said that Spank does have some potential.
"Yeah, he's pretty good. If he just keeps working at it, he'll be pretty good."
HAPPY TO HAVE FLOYD BACK TOO: Sophomore receiver Golden Tate saw plenty of double-teams in the final two games of the season with freshman Michael Floyd out with an injury. But Floyd, who called himself day-to-day, is expected to relieve that pressure from Tate in the bowl game.
Tate said that the Warriors like to play a lot of Cover-2 and Cover-8, but may have to change things with the return of Floyd.
"I think it's going to force them to try different things because we've got Michael on the other side," he said.
Clausen is obviously eager to have another downfield threat back.
"He's a leading receiver," Clausen said of Floyd. "He's a playmaker just like Golden is and we've missed him."
Also, if Clausen knows who will be calling the plays for Notre Dame in the bowl, he's not telling.
"To tell you the truth, I have no clue."