Autry Denson shows freshman running back Josh Adams some proper blocking technique 20 years after he learned similar things at Culver.

Preseason Practice Update - August 8

Aug. 8, 2015

Full Preseason Camp Coverage | Today’s Videos | Today’s Top Tweets

CULVER, Ind. –

The secret lasted 20 years before Ron Powlus told his Notre Dame teammate Autry Denson last week.

Now members of the Irish football staff, Denson as running backs coach and Powlus as the director of player development, the two reminisced about coming to Culver Academy on yellow school buses as players in 1995 for an infernally hot week-plus of camp that felt even longer based on how many recall it. Afterwards, head coach Lou Holtz would call it “Camp Mea Culpa” in jest, using the Latin phrase for “my fault.”

With heat indexes regularly exceeding 100 degrees and the Irish staying in stifling barracks without air conditioning or even fans, upperclassmen fled their rooms at night to try and sleep in the coolest place they could find — on the bleachers and carpeted walkways at Culver’s hockey rink.

“They kept that on the hush,” said Denson, a freshman in 1995. “All of us lower classmen didn’t know that. We just had to deal with (the heat). What’s funny is Ronnie and I were talking last week about coming here and that’s when I found out that they slept in the ice arena. I didn’t know it until 20 years later.”

Now helping mold the 2015 Irish, both Denson and Powlus are enjoying their return visit to one of the country’s elite prep schools and most spectacular campuses.

“It was a great experience,” Denson said. “It’s nostalgic that we’re back here.”

“The similarities are that it’s still a camp,” Powlus said. “It’s still getting with your teammates with no distractions to prepare for the upcoming season. These guys are working hard. We worked hard. You want it to translate into a great start to the season.”

It was not unusual for sweltering practices to end with the entire team running not back to the locker room or their barracks, but rather into the waters of Lake Maxinkuckee, just past the edge of the Culver practice field, for a cool and refreshing plunge.

“All of my friends on social media are asking if it’s 100 degrees here like it was back then,” Powlus said after practice on Saturday. “We do remember that. It was incredibly hot and steamy. You couldn’t get away from the heat with no air conditioning, fans or anything. I remember after practice taking off my helmet and shoulder pads and running right into the water just to cool off a little bit.”

Lake Maxinkuckee also became the scene of one truly unforgettable moment when the Irish returned to start off the 1996 season. On the final night at Culver, Holtz gathered the Irish down by the shoreline and relayed the story of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés’ invasion of Mexico in which he famously burned his boats. Metaphorically, Cortés was telling his men that the only option was a military victory since sailing home to Spain was no longer an option.

Ever the wry showman, Holtz snuck away from the ensuing bonfire with Powlus and fellow team captains Marc Edwards and Lyron Cobbins only to return minutes later on a boat. When the Irish captains landed on the Culver shores, Holtz took a torch out and burned the boat as a crescendo to their week of off-campus exercises.

“He took a historical story and made it relevant to our season,” Powlus said.

Both Powlus and Denson are happy to be back on this quaint rural campus by the lake with their alma mater’s team. Sleeping in the comfort of off-campus houses instead of barracks is an added bonus to their 2015 experience, but the memories remain strong and one over-riding impression of Culver remains.

“Culver is awesome,” Powlus said. “It’s a beautiful place and they treated us great and we all remember it today. They treated us great back then and they’re treating us great now.”

SATURDAY IN BRIEF: The routine of training camp started to hit the Irish on Saturday as they essentially repeated their activities from Friday. Temperatures were warmer as Notre Dame held a two-hour pad-less practice in the morning. After lunch and a few hours of downtime came lifting sessions interspersed with offensive and defensive group meetings. A salmon dinner was followed by brief position group meetings before bed check and lights out.

Today’s Video Content

Some of the day’s best tweets are below, including one which did not go unnoticed at Culver this morning.

While there are no televisions in the barracks and the Culver wireless blocks most video players, through social media, the team was aware that one of their teammates made national TV this morning. If you follow the daily Fighting Irish Media videos, you know that Torii Hunter Jr. made one of Notre Dame’s plays of the day on Friday with a great leaping grab of a deep ball in the end zone. Hours later, Torii’s father, Torii Sr., hit a game-winning home run for the Minnesota Twins in the top of the ninth inning of a 10-9 victory at Cleveland.

Seizing on the juxtaposition of the two moments in the Hunter family (albeit one of them coming at the expense of his beloved Indians), team publicist Michael Bertsch worked his magic and got Hunter Jr.’s catch included among the Top 10 Plays of the Day on SportsCenter.

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