COURTESY MIKE BENNETT
The author, No. 29, made a "tackle" during the game.
Notre Dame fantasy camp is a dream fulfilled
Imagine yourself with your football heroes, not only spending time with them, but actually playing a game — wearing the same uniform — on the turf of their home stadium.
Many have dreamed of playing high-level basketball, baseball, football or hockey, but the vast majority never get the opportunity.
I got to live the dream when I attended the Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp last month in South Bend, Ind. For five days in June, 50 campers interacted with some of the legends of Notre Dame football. We had a team meeting with head coach Charlie Weis and dressed in official team apparel. We went through four demanding practice sessions with instruction from the current football staff and former players. We had daily use of the varsity locker room and team trainers at Notre Dame Stadium. Each day we lived, dined, studied and trained like the Fighting Irish.
The typical training day started with a walk to the locker room, dressing for practice and then meeting with the Notre Dame coaching staff. Then it was off to the field for workouts on offense and defense.
Daily lunches were held in the South Dining Hall, followed by a bit more practice.
Dinners were served in the Monogram Room, the College Football Hall of Fame and other notable locations on campus.
There was even a presentation given by the Notre Dame recruiting coordinator.
The culmination, of course, came on Saturday. A real game, albeit flag football — we ranged in age from 29 to 71, after all.
The day started with a team meeting, a review of play books and breakfast. Next was a special Mass at the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin.
After that, it was on to the stadium locker rooms, where Weis gave us an inspiring talk. Then we knelt, in uniform, for a prayer, the Hail Mary, followed by a rousing "Go, Irish!"
We marched down the fabled staircase, where all the players touched the sign that reads, "Play Like a Champion Today." The NCAA officials and the game-day announcer were all present — exactly like a real game day. Fans lined up in a traditional tunnel formation to welcome their team with cheers and high fives as the "Notre Dame Victory March" echoed through the stadium.
The game was fantastic. The Blue team's last-second touchdown lifted it to victory over the White team and ESPN even made the dramatic ending its SportsCenter "Play of the Day."
"It was a great finish to a fantastic game and a wonderful week of football," said camp founder Patrick Steenberge, a former Notre Dame quarterback.
If I had a "bucket list," it would be almost fulfilled after a week at the Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp. Clearly, it was the whole 9 yards.
Patrick "PT" Brent, a Honolulu businessman, did post-graduate work at Notre Dame. He says playing Irish football was "living the dream."