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Fantasy Camp: Building A Brotherhood

Jun 6, 2013, 7:03 PM EDT

Steve Belles ('89) speaking to the 2013 Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp squad. Steve Belles ('89) speaking to the 2013 Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp squad.

To the average person, the concept of Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp probably sounds crazy. Take a few days off from work, leave your family behind, and come to South Bend for a week for the chance to live and breathe the experience of being a Fighting Irish football player (complete with Trick Shot Monday).

After being around the camp in 2012, and for a second time this week, it is quickly become one of my favorite best-kept-secret events at Notre Dame. Following head coach Brian Kelly’s remarks at the opening dinner on Tuesday, each camper had the the opportunity to introduce himself to the group, which included fellow campers, as well as Monogram winners, and current players and coaches. There were some camp rookies (or “freshmen”) and some veterans. Some young, and some old. Some appearing to be very athletic, others…not so much.

Yet no matter the differences in experience, age and ability, they all shared one thing – an incredible, and perhaps unmatched passion for this university. Whether a proud alum or a lifelong subway diehard, each of these guys truly loves Notre Dame and loves the Fighting Irish.

Being here on campus, first as a student and now as an employee, in no way would I say that I’ve become jaded, but it can certainly be easy to take the Fighting Irish mystique and the beauty of Notre Dame’s campus for granted when you are here each and every day.

Not these guys. One of the first-year players even got choked up, talking about how someday, he hopes his grandson has the opportunity to attend Notre Dame.

From the Blue-Gold weekend to the home opener to the USC game, we all have certain dates we circle on our calendars each year. We look forward not only to the football games, but the chance to catch up with old friends and family members. It’s no different for the Fantasy Camp crew, because during the four or five days they are on campus in June, they build unique friendships – not much different than those formed during the first few moments of Frosh-O.

This afternoon, Fighting Irish Digital Media sat down with former Irish tailback Mark Green (’89, ’06), one of the Monogram winners back as a guest speaker and coach this week.  In addition to answering questions about the 1988 title and the legendary Miami game, Mark also spoke about Notre Dame and the Monogram Club.

“[It's] being a part of something very unique and very special,” he said. “I know there are many, many people who walk the face of this planet who would love to be a part of such a well-recognized organization. It gives me that camaraderie and the feeling that everybody who is a part of this organization has paid the price.”

From fantasy campers to national championship-winning team captains, Notre Dame has a way of bringing people together better than anywhere else I have ever been.

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Former @thefightingirish stars Bob Kuechenberg ('69) & Tom Zbikowski ('07) were inducted into Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame last night. #WeAreND HERE COME THE IRISH!