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Behind the Scenes at Culver Academies

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Training camp at Culver Academies wraps up for Notre Dame football on Tuesday. I went down for most of the day on Friday and Saturday to check out the grounds and get a glimpse of camp life at Culver.



Brian Kelly is the second Notre Dame coach to kick off training camp at Culver, Lou Holtz being the first. Running Backs Coach Autry Denson and Director of Player Development Ron Powlus were at Culver as players under Lou Holtz and we caught up with them to see what, if anything, has changed since they were at Culver in the 90′s.

One thing that has remained the same: no AC in the dorms. When Ron and Autry were at camp, it was brutally hot. Ron told us that the upperclassmen would bring their pillows into the hockey rink at night to sleep on the cement bleachers, a slightly cooler option than the dorms. Apparently they didn't tell the underclassmen, which included Autry. In fact, Autry only found out the upperclassmen did this just last week.

Another notable anecdote from Holtz's time at Culver was when he burned a small boat on the lake. Here's the story told by former linebacker Kory Minor ('99):

"There are so many memorable stories that I can share about my time at Culver, but I think the funniest and most enjoyable would be when coach Holtz burned a small boat on the lake. It reminded me of something General Patton would do to ensure his men were in the battle for the long run. I don't recall if it was the first night we arrived in Culver or a day or two later, but it was a sight I have never seen and the inspirational and motivational message was on point, accurate and precisely delivered.

Imagine coach Holtz and his less than large stature standing in front of each and every player and coach and basically gave his sermon on the mount.  He talked about the mission and what it would take to be successful that season. Coach shared stories of past seasons, the successes and failures and what that team needed to do to win. I remember him scanning the audience with his eyes as though he was looking and talking to each one of us directly, giving you the official guidelines and strategies that we needed to hear as a team so we could unleash our true greatness.

When coach lit the boat on fire and pushed it out to sea the underlying message was clear, there would be no retreating. If you were on that team you must totally by into the message and the philosophy that coach Holtz envisioned. There would be no middle ground. Coach knew how to win and he was very proficient at that. His job was now to fundamentally transform our minds, hearts and beliefs and to have us all on the same page. I must admit Coach did an excellent job conveying his message. I have never been in awe of anything in my life, but to see the boat on fire behind coach Holtz set against the starry night was the most breathtaking sight I have ever seen. That moment was when I knew I had arrived at the University of Notre Dame and there would be no turning back now."

The Culver campus is a busy place during the summer, and not just because of Notre Dame football. On Saturday, there was a triathlon in the morning and three weddings throughout the day. Then, once Notre Dame was done on the field, Culver Academies had their own football team that had to practice in the afternoon.

Luckily, the grounds are huge and there's plenty of space for everyone.

After lunch, the players have some free time before meetings. They can go boating, horseback riding, or fishing but, as you might expect, most choose to just sleep... Or, if you're Romeo Okwara and Corey Robinson, play the ukulele.


Once the team gets back to Notre Dame, training camp continues right here under the dome.

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