The Official visit

<P>Many people wonder what it's like to be a highly recruited athlete. Fans have asked me a number of times what happens on an official visit to Notre Dame. I spoke with Ashley McConnell tonight to give me the particulars of an official visit and what his visit was like during the banquet weekend. </P>

McConnell is a fullback prospect who committed to Notre Dame very early in the process. Ashley officially visited Notre Dame for the banquet weekend on December 6-8th. This was Ashley's first visit ever to South Bend and Notre Dame. He came away very impressed with Notre Dame.

"We ate a ton. I think I gained 10 pounds while I was there. Notre Dame is an awesome place and I really enjoyed my visit. Just meeting the guys and hanging out with the guys made the trip for me." Ashley gave me the full visit and I appreciate the time he took to help.

When you arrive in South Bend or Chicago, a student manager or Rex Hogan meets you at the gate. For Ashley, he didn't have much time because his first plane got cancelled so he went straight to the banquet. "We got there kind of late. I don't know what happened before I got there but once I was there; they showed a big presentation on a big screen about the season and the victories. It was pretty cool. We were all eating dinner and then they honored all the seniors. Shane Walton, Arnaz Battle and an offensive lineman gave a speech. Coach Willingham spoke and a few other people had a speech. Everyone was excited and enjoyed it. They showed highlights of the season with the big hits and big plays. That was pretty cool."

As a side note, I was informed from another player who was at the banquet that before the banquet, all the players signed autographs for everyone attending.

After the banquet, the players went with their hosts to see what life is like as a Notre Dame student athlete. "We then went out with our hosts. We just went to a party. Most of the guys kind of hang out with each other. The skill position players hang out with each other and I was hanging out with them. I know some of the other recruits went to another party somewhere else. It's just socializing and getting to know the players on the team. It was a lot of fun. I didn't get home until real late."

Ashley got his first taste of being a college student. "I got home real late and then had to get up at 8:00 AM and we left the hotel at 8:30 AM. We had breakfast at the academic center. We ate with a host of professors from various areas of studies. The parents and players got to speak with them and ask questions about academics. We were able to speak to them about anything that involved academics. After that, we toured the academic facility and support center."

So what do they feed these guys? "Man, there was so much food. For breakfast, they had a grits and sausage dish, eggs, biscuits, sausage, bacon, pancakes, they had a fruit station and anything you wanted to drink. They had a lot of food every time we ate and we ate plenty."

After that, Ashley went to the Loftus center. "We spoke with Coach Mick for about an hour. He talked about the weight program and what kind of training they do. He showed us the weight room and explained what they plan to do with that. The weight room is going to be at least double the size and they plan to build like half a track with turf as well so you can train on that surface. We then toured the indoor facility where they practice when the weather is bad. After that, all the coaches left, even Rex Hogan and they had 5 players in a room with all the recruits and their families. It was Omar Jenkins, Jeff Faine, Corey Mays, Jake Carney and one other guy. The parents and players got to speak to these players and ask any question they wanted to know about what it was really like at Notre Dame and playing for Notre Dame and for the coaches. That was nice because no coaches were around and they answered honestly. A lot of questions were asked and they answered honestly."

Ashley then went to the place where the greats are honored. "The College Hall of Fame was pretty cool. They have a bleacher section where they show films of the great teams and players." I asked Ashley if he cased out his spot in the Hall of Fame for his bust. "Man, I am just trying to get to Notre Dame. I just want to get to Notre Dame. I didn't even think about that. We ate lunch there in the Upper Deck. We watched the Miami/Virgnia Tech game and just kind of hung out there."

After the Hall of Fame, it was straight to the stadium. "We got there and it was so cool. You walk into the locker room and your jersey is hanging there. You see all the tradition and everything that has made Notre Dame football. After that, we went to dinner at an Italian place. That was some good food."

The recruits then spend some time with their hosts. "We went back to the Hotel and then went out with our hosts. Our parents went to a small party at Kevin White's house and we went out with our hosts. It was pretty much the same thing. We just hung out with the guys at a club. You get to know them pretty well when everyone is just hanging out. You get to know how well you fit in with the players and I fit in well with them."

Sunday is the final day of the visit and the day you get to meet with the coaches. "We went back to the stadium and had brunch in the skybox above the stadium. Each player has a different time that they speak to their position coach and Coach Willingham. Mine was on the same day. After brunch, we went over and spoke with Coach Preston for about an hour or so. We talked about the offense and where they think I fit in. We asked some more questions and then we just kind of talked for a while. We then went and ate again and we were supposed to tour the bookstore but we just went back to the hotel and got packed. We then had to meet Coach Willingham at 4:30. We spoke for about an hour and half. It's always a great to speak to Coach Willingham and he answered our questions and then he asked My Mom and I a lot of questions. He is such a great guy and you just feel comfortable around him. We then went to the airport and back home. It was a great experience; Notre Dame is a great place."

Ashley has been a pleasure to talk to this year and I appreciate the time he has taken to speak with me. I think every Mom would love to have a son like Ashley because he has his head screwed on straight and he is truly thankful for all the gifts he has been given in life. I have been doing this for 7 years and I haven't met a player who is more thankful for his scholarship offer from Notre Dame. Thanks again to Ashley and I hope the ND fans get behind this great kid and cheer for him. By the way, his Mom is one very nice woman as well. Top Stories