ND Recruits Touched By Soldiers

SAN ANTONIO - This week, the six Notre Dame verbal commits taking part in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl festivities, didn't just make friends with each other, fellow players and coaches. They added another special person to their lives.

A U.S. Army soldier.

When Tyler Stockton, Jake Golic, Chris Watt, Zeke Motta, Cierre Wood and Shaquelle Evans showed up in San Antonio last Sunday, they were quickly greeted by an Army soldier whom they spent a lot of time with over the course of the week.

"They just become your buddy," Golic said. "They'll answer any questions that you have if you want to learn anything about the Army and everything. There were certain things on their uniform I had a lot of questions about."

Saturday's All-Star game caps the festivities, where the All-Americans from all over the country play in front of thousands of soldiers inside the Alamo Dome. Stockton, Golic and Motta helped the East team defeat Wood, Watt, Evans and the West team, 30-17.

"It was good," Golic began. "It was a great atmosphere and it was fun to play in front of all the soldiers and put on a show for them.

"They sponsor us, they walk around with us the whole time, they hang out with us, so we owe it to them to put on a good show for them. I think the biggest thing was coming down here and playing good for them."

Golic plans on keeping in touch with his soldier down the road, and they exchanged email addresses.

Stockton was extremely touched by the wounded soldiers he met during the skills competition on Friday morning.

"Meeting the wounded soldiers is something I will always remember," Stockton said.

Like Golic and Stockton, Watt said the most memorable part of the week was bonding with his soldier.

"My soldier was an infantry man who served four tours I think in Iraq and Afghanistan," Watt explained. "It was really cool to meet him, and learn a lot about the Army that I never knew before, and what they do everyday."

Before Saturday's game, the All-Americans and their soldier meet at the middle of the field, where they performed some type of special handshake in front of the crowd. Wood and his soldier leapt high in the air and bumped shoulders.

Moments like that, are things these kids will treasure forever.

***A preview of fall camp: There wasn't much trash talking, but occasionally before the play, Watt and Stockton would wink at each other.

On several snaps in Saturday's game, Watt, a five-star offensive guard, matched up with Stockton, a four-star defensive tackle.

"I knew we were going to get at it, but we had a good time," the 6-foot-1, 295-pound Stockton said.

"It was a lot of fun," the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Watt said. "He's a good player too. We had some good battles in there. We got the best of each other a couple times. I thought it was pretty even. I wish I could say I got the best of him, but I can't say that because we both went hard every play after each other."

***No Sacks Here: One of the things Watt was most happy about after the game was the fact he didn't allow a sack.

"Run block, I thought I did pretty well during practice," he said. "We didn't really run that many running plays today. Pass blocking, I thought I did a little better in the game.

"That's one thing, we run the double wing at my high school, so it's a little bit harder, we don't pass the ball very much. So I thought I did a good job of pass blocking, I didn't allow a sack."

All the pass blocking, and lining up against players the caliber of Stockton all week, has given Watt a taste of what's to come on the next level.

"I think just that there is going to be people out there that are as good as you, if not better, so you're always going to have to give it, in the off-season, I'm going to have to give it 110 percent everyday if I want to compete with the big boys.

"You have to work at it everyday and get as big as you can, and get as fast as you can, and get ready for the next level."

By the summer, Watt would like to add 10 pounds to his 280-pound frame.

"I want to be like 290, but I want to get bigger gains on my bench and squat. I'm not sure where they are right now because I've been playing basketball."

***Earning the start: Besides Watt, Stockton and Motta earned starts for the East team.

"That's definitely a huge thing," Stockton said. "There is a lot of great players out here, and to be considered one of the best at my position and be able to start in the game is definitely an honor."

Stockton, who had one tackle, started next to William Campbell, and ahead of Josh Boyd and John Simon.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Motta got the nod over Jarvis Jones.

"I've been blessed by God to have the talent to be able to do that, and I was able to come out and through practice all week, I was able to perform and I actually ended up getting the starting position," Motta explained. He had two tackles in the game. "It was a lot of fun. I'm so glad I was fortunate enough to be able to play in this game.

"To be able to come away with the win was also was amazing. The atmosphere here was just awesome. It was the first time I ever experienced an atmosphere like this. It was just so much fun."

***Early Enrollees: Motta and Stockton will experience a different kind of atmosphere soon. Next week, the two of them will join E.J. Banks in South Bend as early enrollees to the Notre Dame program.

"I go down to Notre Dame now and take the next step forward," Stockton said. "It's all happening fast."

"I'm excited," Motta said. "I can't wait to get up there and adjust to the cold weather, and start working out and getting my academics squared away and all that."

The three of them already have two game systems squared away for the room.

"I'm bringing a PlayStation, he's bringing a PlayStation," Motta said of Stockton. "We're kind of game freaks and all. I'm going to be whooping up on them all."

Stockton would beg to differ regarding any football video game.

"Yeah he likes to brag, but once I get up there, I'm going to tear him down," Motta said.

***Celebrities: Following the game, Evans was among the many All-Americans signing footballs and shirts for kids. He was doing so in his Notre Dame hat.

"It feels good, especially with the little kids, it shows they look up to you and want to grow up and be like you," Evans said.

Evans had an awesome week in San Antonio.

"It was a great experience being out here with all these guys, meeting different guys, seeing what they're all about, competing against the best of the best, it was a great time, I loved it."

During the game, Evans caught just one pass for four yards, but he got open a couple times deep, however the quarterback didn't see him.

"I got open deep a couple times, and I was a little peeved about it, but it's just an All-Star game, so everybody doesn't get what they want," Evans explained.

"I was just happy to be playing in it. It's just fun being out here. It's an honor to be on this field."

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