Nic Weishar has had a strong start to camp at the tight end position.

Preseason Practice Update - August 14

Aug. 15, 2015

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When asked about whether the 2015 Notre Dame football team can meet its lofty media prognostications, head coach Brian Kelly has consistently agreed that nearly all of the pieces required for an elite season are in place. What could potentially make the pundits’ picks a reality is how well those components mesh into a single dominance force.

The first week and a half of preseason camp has leaned heavily on components of team-building and leadership. The Irish have good chemistry already. For example, many college football teams naturally tend to break off my position group at team meals. Not the Irish. Routinely players from multiple positions will dine together at the eight-seat round tables in the dining area. Veterans sit with freshmen. Offense sits with defense.

When a player suffers a personal tragedy, suffice to say they are there for him. Sophomore tight end Nic Weishar lost his brother to cancer in 2012 at the young age of 21. This summer, his family hosted “WeishFest,” a benefit concert outside of Chicago to raise funds for families like his who have been afflicted by both the mental and financial anguish which cancer and wreck upon the loved ones of its victims.

It wasn’t just the tight ends who came. It wasn’t just the offensive players who came. It was nearly anyone on the roster who could get to the party, a fact that touched Nic.

“It was an unbelievable time and good that all the guys were there to support me, their teammate,” he said. “It was pretty humbling that they all showed up. I know they had a great time. This team is something special and that’s just another example of how special this team really is.”

This past week, on two occasions, Kelly was asked about players who had surprised him during the early stages of camp. Weishar’s name was mentioned each time. After not playing as a freshman in 2014, Weishar rededicated himself in the weight room, the film room and in other team activities. The gains have been evident thus far at the only position where the Irish lack a clear replacement for a departed starter.

“It’s humbling that (coach Kelly) is thinking about me when he’s doing an interview,” Weishar said when he was told of his head coach’s public comments. “It gives me more motivation to go out there every day and be the best that I can be.

“Knowing that there is a place to me to keep moving helps. I’ve always been a person that wants to be at the top so it’s a great feeling knowing that folks are noticing me and I can just keep improving every day.”

Few can match the proud legacy of Notre Dame at tight end in recent years. With Ben Koyack’s selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2015 NFL Draft, each of the last six starting tight ends for Notre Dame have been NFL draftees, five of them going in either the first or second rounds.

The graduation of Koyack leaves a gap to be filled with no obvious answer. Both Tyler Luatua and Durham Smythe earned monograms as true freshmen last year but those were mainly for special teams play. The tandem combined for just one catch and most of the duo’s tight end snaps came in two-tight end sets that often signify a running play. Graduate student Chase Hounshell is a converted defensive lineman, relocated in the spring. Junior Ben Suttman is an option as is highly-recruited freshman Alizé Jones, although he has been nagged by injury thus far in camp.

There is no obvious choice. Weishar sees the light at the end of the tunnel after not playing as a freshman. He hopes to carve out a spot in its glow for himself, but he will also be happy for his fellow tight ends too should they be the ones ultimately playing more. His teammates turned out for Weishar in a time of need. It only makes him want to return their support. It’s what teammates do.

“When you see somebody down you go pick them up,” Weishar said. “That’s what we are. We’re a team. We’re a brotherhood. The fact that they all came out for Weishfest shows that. I’m just trying to do everything I can back to be a good teammate to other people.”

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— written and compiled by Leigh Torbin, athletic communications assistant director, and Michael Bertsch, director of football media relations