April 16, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – What is it that keeps bringing them back? Quite simply, the opportunity to live out football dreams on the hallowed turf of the University of Notre Dame is too much to resist for the returning veterans of the Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp.
A total of 26 veterans – classed as sophomores, juniors and seniors – will return to the sixth annual Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp, which will be held from June 25 to 29. Joining them will be seven four-year and five-year Alumni Lettermen, a group of old hands still gripped by the Fighting Irish spirit and though not actually playing, want to be there to cheer on their friends.
And the word is spreading. Already signed up as 2008 freshmen are 18 newcomers aged between 30 and 65 who will arrive in South Bend from as far away as California, Florida, Hawaii and Texas. The oldest 2008 Fantasy Camp participant, sophomore Artie Dumesnil from Terrytown, La., signs in at 72 years young, closely followed by 71-year-old junior Larry Leamy from Marshall, Mich.
The popular camps, which have been run successfully since 2003 by former Notre Dame quarterback Patrick Steenberge (’70-’71), offer Irish fans a chance to play football where legends have gone before them – at Notre Dame Stadium.
“I am so thankful for the five years that I was able to be a part of Fantasy Camp,” said Robert Haberkorn, who has returned every summer to live out his fantasy of pulling on an Irish jersey to be coached by former Notre Dame players and coaches. “This is a wonderful experience, and the memories have been great.”
Haberkorn is one of the seven returning fanatics who are now eligible to `audit’ the camp, returning to Notre Dame as Alumni Lettermen, simply to savor the experience – yet again.
The Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp attendees will dress in official team apparel for four practices with instruction from current staff and former star players, have daily use of the varsity locker room in Notre Dame Stadium, and will dine in the Monogram Room, South Dining Hall, College Football Hall of Fame and Stadium Press Box.
The campers will be split into two teams and play a 60-minute flag game in the Stadium with authentic game jerseys and pants, listening as their names are called out by an announcer. The game day experience includes game officials, the stadium scoreboard, crowd noise music, a message from Sgt. Tim McCarthy, the football team photographer, and video footage of the whole unique experience.
Campers will meet and interact with some of the legends of Notre Dame Football, have a team meeting with head coach Charlie Weis, take home gifts such as an authentic home and away game jersey (with a choice of number) and pants, practice jersey, adidas cleats, cap, t-shirt, polo shirt, shorts, apparel bag, game video, team photo, and official Riddell Notre Dame gold helmet.
When bodies are weary after a day of practice, a single room is available in the historic Morris Inn on campus, with nightly hospitality and memorable stories shared by former players.
Among seven senior campers returning to experience the thrills of the Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp for a fourth time to are two players in their 60s, Dan Kindelt (62) from Woodland, Calif., and Dick Morehead (61) of Jacksonville, Fla.
Returning seniors:Name Age Hometown State #Dan Kindelt 62 Woodland CA 98Mike Brennan 38 Ocala FL 18Dick Morehead 61 Jacksonville FL 3John Harris 38 Holmdel NJ 81Mark Smith 48 Cleveland TN 22Chris Alley 43 Tazewell VA 1Chris Secreto 47 Kirkland WA 6
The list of juniors includes one of the camp’s five Indiana residents in 53-year-old Joe Hession from Carmel. The camp’s true locals will be sophomores Steve Filbert and Dave Heatherson, who will travel the short distance to campus from South Bend and Gilbert respectively.
Junior Frank Bagatta Jr. will take part in the camp for a third year alongside his father Frank Sr., an Alumni Letterman. The family connection is proving a popular theme with other father and son pairings including sophomores Gene Faut Sr. (aged 66 from Tower Lakes, Ill.) and Gene Faut Jr. (aged 42 from Roselle, Ill.).
Junior Tim Kopp (aged 62 from Wrightsville, Pa.) so enjoyed his two years’ experiences at Fantasy Camp that he invited his son Brian Kopp (aged 35 from Deatsville, Ala.) to enroll as a freshman in 2008.
Continuing the family theme, the roster also includes the Long brothers Tom (46, from Dallas, Texas) and Steve (44, from Highland Village, Texas), both in their first year.
Returning juniors:Name Age Hometown State #Dan Rodden 54 Buffalo IL 56Joe Hession 53 Carmel IN 5Larry Leamy 71 Marshall MI 37Frank Bagatta Jr. 23 Commack NY 9Tim Kopp 62 Wrightsville PA 84
Who better than the returning sophomores, the Notre Dame enthusiasts who are returning for a second Fantasy Camp, to put the experience into perspective? “Words just can’t describe it,” insists Chris Cromer from Rome, Ga. “The kindness and hospitality of everyone involved with the camp was unbelievable.”
Returning sophomores:Name Age Hometown State #Tom Britz 67 Palm Springs CA 89Chris Cromer 37 Rome GA 47Gene Faut, Jr. 42 Roselle IL 7Gene Faut, Sr. 66 Tower Lakes IL 26Steve Filbert 59 South Bend IN 14Dan Heatherson 61 Granger IN 61Michael Whelan 47 Evansville IN 10Artie Dumesnil 72 Terrytown LA 3Dave Libs 67 Buchanan MI 58Scott Litwiller 45 Tulsa OK 50John O'Neill 40 Toronto ONT 21Jeff Balitsos 36 Nashville TN 34Bran Pieroni 41 Chesapeake VA 10
For the first time in 2008 the Fantasy Camp will welcome an Alumni Letterman class of veterans who have participated since the inaugural year, including 45-year-old Rob Johnson from Lititz, Pa. He says: “Every year I tell my wife this can’t get any better and somehow it does thanks to the great job of Patrick and his team, but most importantly the new freshman coming in. We are a family and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Alumni Lettermen:Name Age Hometown StateJoe Colgan 50 Chicago ILRick Peltz 39 Indianapolis INKeith Cross 35 Holden MARobert Haberkorn 47 Cape Girardeau MOFrank Bagatta, Sr. 55 Smithtown NYBart McGloin 43 Wheatfield NYRob Johnson 45 Lititz PA
Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp Freshmen:Name Age Hometown State #Brian Kopp 35 Deatsville AL 82Bud Johnson 54 Los Alamitos CA 3Jim Lucchesi 65 San Francisco CA 32Bill Robinson 60 Melbourne FL 41Tim Sudduth 36 Atlanta GA 12PT Brent 65 Honolulu HI 29Dennis Fenn 58 Chicago IL 60Charlie Ruffolo 30 Chicago IL 77Stu Fortener 40 Overland Park KS 11Serge Martinez 65 Crestwood KY 15Bud Shearer 60 Hampstead MD 3Nick Huber 55 Jackson MO 53Bruce Calligaro 58 Ringwood NJ 10Mark Thees 47 Toledo OH 13Vance Fuller 54 York PA 8Steve Long 44 Highland Village TX 50Tom Long 46 Dallas TX 4
The unique Fantasy Camp experience costs $5490 and is the ideal gift for that father, son or husband who has everything else! For more information, visit the official Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp web site at www.NDFootballFantasyCamp.com or contact Steenberge at (817) 219-7274. — ND —