Every college football player has that moment when he realizes that he is not in high school anymore. Tyler Stockton's just came while all of his peers were still in high school.
Stockton, who enrolled over the winter and is listed at 290 pounds, had his 'Welcome to college football' moment during an Irish Eyes drill when he was abused by 337-pound senior-to-be Chris Stewart.
"That was just my introduction to college football," Stockton said. "Stewie is a big guy and I realized that I had to play really aggressive, really stay low on bigger guys like that and really the tempo. It's faster, guys are bigger and I have to use my quickness."
Stewart got over the rookie and taunted him before Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis stopped the drill to teach Stockton a lesson.
"He didn't understand that it's okay, in that situation, it's okay to go ahead and fight back," said Weis. "He didn't understand that. Some of that is trying to find out what you can do and can't do."
Weis understands that not every freshman is going to arrive with Robert Blanton's attitude.
"Not everyone comes in like R.J. now. Not everyone comes in that cocky guy that will go ahead and do it first and deal with consequences later," Weis chuckled. "Tyler was more kind of come-as-you-go, but we've been very pleased with his progress."
Stockton admitted that he was unsure it was his place to react.
"With Coach Weis there and definitely being a new guy, I don't really want to go up and start getting in someone's face," he said. "I'm just trying to play and just do my thing on the field, but I know now."
Stockton acknowledged that he did not come into spring practice in his best condition after recovering from a partially torn meniscus during his senior season at The Hun School in Princeton (N.J.)
"I don't think I was 100 percent ready because coming off the injury and jumping right into the All-American game. I was a little out of shape there, but I thought I performed pretty well," he said. "Coming here doing mat drills, at first I was a little out of shape, but I definitely feel I'm in a little bit better shape."
Throughout the spring, Weis has seen Stockton's conditioning improve along with his play.
"As he's worked his way into shape, he has shown what we'd thought he'd be, a really quick guy at the line of scrimmage who's a pain in the butt and can penetrate," said Weis. "We're very encouraged by his play on the defensive line because he did not look out of place."
Skipping his final semester of high school has been tough at times, but Stockton has not second-guessed himself.
"I knew this was going to help me out in the long run. It's better to come in now and get adjusted to guys like Stewie, Chris Stewart, and Eric Olsen and going against these guys knowing really what to expect," he said. "Now when I come into summer practice I really have no excuses to show what I can do."
It has also been beneficial to him in the classroom.
"Time management was definitely a big thing that I had to look at," he said. "I feel I've been doing a lot better with everything there.
"I'll have an easier adjustment knowing how to expect to study for a test and preparing for papers and stuff like that. Athletically, the speed of the game, I should be used to by the time we start summer practice."
Stockton has yet to prove that he's learned his lesson from that Irish Eyes drill against Stewart, but only because he hasn't gotten the chance.
"I've been doing a lot better since then. No one's really been throwing me around like Stewie did," he said. "I've done well against [Stewart and Olsen] in the scrimmages… I've been definitely holding my own."