July 11, 2003
Notre Dame, Ind. – What started out as a day full of rain, hail and 40 mph wind gusts turned to sunshine and smiles at Notre Dame Stadium for the first annual Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp. In the culmination of the five-day event, the players gathered early in the morning ready to experience what it is like the be a Fighting Irish player on gameday.
As they dressed in the lockerroom, put on their authentic Notre Dame uniform worn by the current Irish players (each fantasy camper was later given a gold helmet to keep) and conversed with current coaches and former players, they knew the day was set to be something special.
After pregame mass, the historic walk from the church to the stadium, team meetings and a run down the tunnel that included hitting the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign, the fantasy players knew they were joining an elite group as about 2,500 men previous to them have had the same opportunity as they had just experienced.
The Blue team, led by honorary coach Tom Salb (Hobbs, N.M.), won the toss and elected to kickoff in the first half. The fireworks started early as the Gold team tried to go deep on the first play from scrimmage, but Kevin Dunigan’s (Logan, Ohio) pass was intercepted by Jackie Jackson (Granbury, Texas).
The Blue team took over on their own 20 yard line and promptly marched 80 yards capped off by a 39-yard scoring strike to Bob Mohrhusen from Robbie Horton, both of the Virginia Beach area.
The Gold Team answered with a scoring strike to Dan Benyo (Boston, Mass.) from Dunigan and the point after attempt was good giving the Gold a 7-6 lead with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter marked a 15-minute scoring drive by the Gold team as they had possession the entire quarter and scored on the final play of the half. John Shanly (Holbrook, Mass.) caught the ball off a tipped pass in the middle of the endzone giving the Gold a 13-6 lead at the half.
The Gold team kicked off to start the second half and the blue team could not move the ball, however a fantastic punt by Horton penned down the Gold after the ball was downed by Frank Bagatta (Commack, N.Y.) on the three-yard line. Blue regained good field possession to start the fourth quarter as Horton led the Blue team down the field before Mohrhusen scored his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard plunge, making the score 13-12. Rather than play for the tie, current Notre Dame defensive line coach Greg Mattison, who along with offensive line coach John McDonell, served as a coach at the camp, failed on the two-point conversion.
The Gold team then scored on a 59-yard run up the middle two plays later putting them up 19-12. The Blue team still had a chance with 1:40 left on the clock but a sack by Mike Sommers (San Marcos, Calif.) cost them a timeout. The final play of the game was a Hail Mary pass that was intercepted by Joe Colgan (Chicago, Ill.), sealing the 19-12 victory for the Gold.
After the game fantasy players gathered together with former Notre Dame players and coaches as the Alma Mater was played by the daughter of one of the honorary coaches, Tess Salb – a ’01 Notre Dame graduate.
Gold team quarterback Dunigan was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after connecting on 5 of 9 passes for 72 yards, including a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 106 yards and another score. Official game balls also were presented by the coaching staff to the players who had turned in outstanding performances on the field.
Shanly (was awarded a game ball for catching a touchdown pass on the final play of the first half. Mohrhusen earned the honor after scoring both on the ground and through the air. Mike Sommers (San Marcos, Calif.) took home a game ball as the contest’s leading tackler. The final game ball was bestowed upon Robert Johnson (Lititz, Pa.) for being named top offensive lineman.
Throughout the extended weekend the fantasy players were welcomed by Head coach Tyrone Willingham, former players, the Monogram Club and the current Notre Dame football coaching staff. The players participated in practices, training table, a golf scramble and got a true sense of the Fighting Irish community.
Dates for the 2004 Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp are forthcoming. Information can be obtained online at www.NDfootballfantasycamp.com, or by calling Global Football president Patrick Steenberge at (817) 326-3578.