Behind Enemy Lines: A Clemson Insider’s Perspective on the Notre Dame Experience

Yesterday we brought you 5 questions & answers David Hood, the senior editor of the oldest Clemson site on the internet – Today, David was kind enough to share with us this story on his Notre Dame experience – even if it didn’t come last month when Clemson visited South Bend.

The big game is Saturday, and by now we’ve all seen the predictions and we’ve all broken down what will have to happen for each team to be successful. When Frank reached out about doing a “Behind Enemy Lines” piece, my thought was that I would do more of the same, simply from a Clemson perspective.

A phone call changed all of that, and I hope you will enjoy a look at your program through the eyes of someone who covers another program.

The phone call came from a buddy who lives in Louisville, and he was thinking about heading up to South Bend to check out the campus. He knew my wife and I had stopped in for a few days a while back and wanted to ask questions about what to see and what to do.

My answer was simple. See it all.

We were in Chicago for a Cubs game a summer ago, and with some time to kill before heading home we decided to make the drive to South Bend. At the time, it was a preparatory trip for this year’s game between the Tigers and the Fighting Irish. We wanted to scope out some places to stay and places to eat. I called Notre Dame alum Tim Bourret – hopefully a familiar name to many of you – and he laughed and told me he was on the phone with Digger Phelps and would have to call me back.

As we exited Chicago and hit I-90, the phone rang and Bourret began his Notre Dame grand tour monologue. He had a question first – would we get there in time to eat? We said sure, and he implored us to eat at Parisi’s and tell them we wanted to sit at Digger’s table. We did, and the homemade pasta was amazing, but even while the wife was chatting up staff at the restaurant about their pastas, I was looking out the window and across the street to the campus.

 As a college football writer who has covered multiple National Championship games and every big bowl game known to man and attended Heisman Trophy ceremonies (I am also a voter), the campus at Notre Dame was a place I had never visited and I was anxious to start the journey. Even the street names on the map seemed magical – Leahy Drive and Moose Krause Circle and Joyce Drive.

We went by Hammes Bookstore just to browse the inventory and saw more than one book by our buddy Bourret in the lobby in prominent locations, and I snapped a few pics and sent over to him. And then we parked the car and started to walk – Touchdown Jesus and the Hesburgh Library were first and then we walked down and over to St. Mary’s Lake and St. Joseph’s Lake. We stopped in and lit a candle for my mother at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

We stopped in at Basilica of the Sacred Heart for a quick picture and then the Main Building for a photo with the Golden Dome. Someone who works there noticed us and asked if we wanted them to take a picture of the two of us, and we readily agreed. They asked a few questions and we told them who we were and that we couldn’t wait to get back, and they asked if I had ever heard of Trumpets in the Dome? I said no, and they smiled and told me to “look it up” before heading on their way. I sat there and watched a YouTube video and immediately told my wife that I wanted to be there to experience that first-hand.

Of course, any trip to Notre Dame has to include a trip to the stadium (it was closed) and then over to the Joyce Center. The door was open and we walked upstairs and I wandered around for over an hour, looking at all of the memorabilia and trophies and photos, and once again I was a little kid watching Ara Parseghian and the Fighting Irish on TV from my home in Missouri. I stood and looked at part of Knute Rockne’s playbook and pieces of his fatal plane crash. There were Heisman Trophies and Outland Trophies and National Championship Trophies and jerseys and nets, and I was lost in my own world of college athletics. For a college football junkie like myself, it was a perfect day.

The campus is gorgeous. The history is iconic. The tradition is unlike any other. For a day, I got to see Notre Dame and I have to admit, it hurt that we didn’t get to see it on a game day this season. But another trip beckons in two years, and I am hopeful that I will be there to get the full experience. I want to hear Trumpets in the Dome and see everything Irish football has to offer.

Until then, enjoy what you have. It’s unique and it’s special in the world of college football, a bridge from yesterday to today.

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One Comment

  1. And ND still landed a top 8 recruiting class with most of the signed recruits missing out on such a tour!
    Great post, Frank.
    Winning helps to get ND into becoming a top 10 recruiting class. Campus tours might have gotten them into finally becoming among the top 5. But like an earlier post reminded us, there’s a lot of ‘three stars’ who have developed this program to belonging among the elite. No doubt, the campus is rich in beauty and tradition, as this visitor discovered first hand.

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