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Hop over that fence

Mike Gilloon | Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just before my parents dropped me at Stanford Hall three years ago today, my mom told me something.

“Mike, you have the world by the tail on a downhill swing,” she said. “Take advantage of it.”

Your mom will probably give you the same type of advice today.

Now that I’m a senior and entering my fourth year at the only place I ever wanted to go, I can tell you that she’s probably right.

So listen up.

As a freshman, I was so happy to be here that I forgot why I came.

After three years of living a dream, I’ve realized Notre Dame is – in one sense – no different than anywhere else.

Natural Lite and quarter dogs still make you fat.

Three minutes studying calculus and three hours playing NCAA 2007 still lead to bad grades.

Dancing to Journey at an SYR is still not cool.

But – drunken fist pumping aside – this place is pretty special.

You will have access to the widest alumni network in the world.

You will take classes from professors who are tops in their field.

You will live on the most beautiful campus in the country.

You might even see a national title.

The trick is to take advantage of your opportunity.

Maybe you remember Mrs. Smalls in “The Sandlot.”

Most of you were about six years old when that movie debuted, but she’s the mom who tells her nerdy son Scott – the new kid on the block – to get out of the house and into some trouble.

So he did.

He put down the Erector Set in his bedroom and headed to the baseball diamond.

It took some help from Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, but in one summer Smalls made a bunch of friends, learned how to cook Smores and even had James Earl Jones hand him a baseball signed by the 1927 Yankees.

None of that would have happened if he stayed in his room.

It might be easy to stay in your room once Frosh-O ends and school begins. You won’t know anyone outside of your section and the jump from senioritis to the First Year of Studies can be rough.

You aren’t going to immediately feel at ease around here, even if it’s the only school you ever wanted to attend.

But once you go out of your way and shake off your shyness, you’ll never want to leave. Sign up for Interhall sports or attend a dorm Mass.

Visit with a teacher after class and get to know everyone in your hall.

You’re new, you’re smart and you’re scared.

You’re Eagle Scouts, class presidents and football team captains.

You scored higher on entrance tests than almost every kid in the country.

You’re at a school that most only see on NBC.

There’s a bit of Scott Smalls in all of you. And the only way to make the best of the biggest opportunity you’ll ever have is to take a risk and leave your room.

It’s easy to feel content just being at Notre Dame.

That’s why it’s important that you don’t.