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Freshmen prepare for first game

By JONATHAN RETARTHA | Friday, September 5, 2003

It has been two weeks since the Class of 2007 stepped onto campus and into life at Notre Dame. No doubt, it has been a challenge negotiating the dining hall, finding classes on time and trying to get the attention of that one particular girl (or guy) in First Year Composition class. Granted, it is tough enough for freshmen to get used to a campus of 10,000 students, but their biggest challenge now lies in having to share their space with the student body and 70,000 of their closest friends. This Saturday’s season opener against Washington State promises to be an experience that will intimidate both legacies and novices alike.

Sure, there are plenty freshmen out there who have never been to a Notre Dame football game. There are even a good number of people who have never watched one on TV. But imagine having never seen an American football game ever, and having this Saturday as your first experience. That honor belongs to many international students, like Juan Pablo Lauz, a student from Peru.

“I have never seen American football before,” admits Lauz. “[My roommate] tells me it’s not only about the football part, it’s about the atmosphere … to see Notre Dame Football come to life … all the students cheering and the whole feeling towards it.” He also acknowledges the popularity of the Irish in Peru, and realizes that if you were to see football for the first time, there is no better way to see it than this.

On the other end of the spectrum is freshman Tommy Kemp. A seasoned veteran of standing through many a game in the spectator section, he knows it’s going to be different moving to the Northwest corner.

“The atmosphere … it’s just nuts in the student section,” says Kemp, “It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to stand.” One in four of this year’s freshman class is a legacy, so many will know the cheers and the traditions inside and out.To measure the level of anticipation among the freshmen concerning this week’s game, one need not look further than Debartolo Hall, but most notably the classrooms on the west side of the building. Walk into any freshman class and the eyes of those along the window seats are fixed not on the professor or the PowerPoint presentation, but on the stadium, where all week window washers, interior cleaning crews and lawnmowers have been preparing the grounds for this weekend’s festivities. There is also little doubt of the impact Irish football has on this year’s class based off the admissions process alone. Whether the Office of Admissions chooses to acknowledge it or not, this past year’s biggest applicant pool ever undoubtedly was affected by last year’s surprising season.

An even more unique perspective of this Saturday’s game comes from Bill Gallagher, a freshman member of the Band of the Fighting Irish. After going through hellacious practice sessions from dawn until dusk from the moment they stepped on campus, Saturday’s game is the culmination of a work ethic that rivals that of the varsity players themselves.

“[It has been] a lot of fun, but a lot of work,” according to Gallagher, but when it comes to opening day, he believes the mood is “more exciting then nervous.” Perhaps the biggest responsibility of any freshman concerning this week’s game belongs to Ryan McSpadden, one of this year’s Dillon Hall “Teen Wolves,” a staple at the annual Dillon Hall Pep Rally that kicked off the football weekend Thursday night.

“I really wanted to put my all in it… show my true self,” notes McSpadden of the intense tryout he had to undergo to receive this great honor. “I gotta get crazy, I gotta get people there … I gotta put on a performance.”

Finally, there are those first year students for whom this Saturday is an event they have been waiting for their entire lives. They are the ones who when asked about why they wanted to come here, all they could reply was, “I’ve just always wanted to come here.” So many of the freshmen at Saturday’s game have watched hundreds of downs from their television sets, and have dreamed of the opportunity to see a live game for many years.

In case some of the freshmen did not know coming here what they were getting themselves into, they quickly learned by waiting in the ticket line last week, or by simply going on eBay and seeing what those $25 dollar seats are really worth.

All Notre Dame freshmen, though, are considered full-fledged members of the sea of green, however, and their role in Saturday’s game does not go overlooked, even by coach Tyrone Willingham. Willingham spoke to the freshmen at the “Spirit of ND” event during Orientation Weekend in the Joyce Center and encouraged everyone to go out and get this year’s “The Shirt” for the first home game.

This weekend’s game promises to be an event like none other, win or lo… well, forget that last part. Coming off one of their best seasons in years, the Irish have high expectations placed on them this year. The roar of the crowds, the sounds of the band, and the screeching of Air Force jets overhead will quickly initiate this year’s freshmen into the Notre Dame Football experience. Just one piece of advice from the upperclassmen: Don’t sit down. Don’t ever sit down.