CULVER, Ind. - Four weeks of preseason camp can get pretty monotonous in college football where schools are not allowed to have any outside scrimmages or joint practices like in the NFL. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly found a way to mix things up a little on Friday when he decided to neither walk across campus to Culver Academies' Oliver Field nor ride there in a golf cart.
Kelly saddled up one of Culver's famed black horses, a mare fittingly named "Patton" for the Notre Dame leader's grand entrance, and galloped onto the field for practice. The stunt caught the team and most of the support staff completely off guard and produced a great moment of levity that all on site enjoyed. Kelly's equestrian entrance also became a viral hit nationally on the internet with nearly every major sports media outlet picking up on the mid-morning ride of coach Kelly, including ESPN's flagship SportsCenter.
After Sheldon Day and Nick Martin partook in a great Culver tradition of firing off an artillery cannon to wake up their teammates at 7 a.m., the Irish held their first full-pads practice of camp at Culver, enjoyed one last lunch in Culver's timeless dining hall and then boarded busses back home to South Bend, concluding a productive week of off-site camp. The team held its evening meetings back in the familiar confines of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and then settled back into on-campus dormitories to rest up for Saturday when the Irish will conduct the first two-a-day session of 2014's preseason camp.
"We're at Culver Academies and they've got one of the greatest equestrian programs in the country," Kelly told Jack Nolan of Fighting Irish Digital Media after practice. "I thought it would be fitting that the head coach would represent that. We're playing two teams that feature a horse prominently as their mascots, Florida State (Renegade) and USC (Traveller), and we need to beat both of them. It was a way for me to remind our guys that's coming real soon.
"You come out on the fifth day and you know your guys are tired and sore, but you want to lighten it up a little bit. I think we lightened it up a little bit for them, but we also know that there's work time too. They want to see the human side of you as you're grinding them and trying to get them to be the best they can be. It's important to show there's a lighter side to you as well."
STRONG AND TRUE UPDATE: Jess Atkinson of 3 Penny Films is once again documenting Notre Dame's preseason camp for a Strong and True program that will air on the NBC Sports Network at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 25. On Friday, Atkinson was up bright and early for the thunder of the cannons. He then got footage of coach Kenny on his horse along with the team's hard-hitting first practice in full pads.
We had a wonderful week at Culver, but it's also great to be moving back into our home at the Gug. pic.twitter.com/SoWHMfSa3M— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 8, 2014