Campers take part in the annual Blue-Gold Fantasy Football Game.

Veterans Return To Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp

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 or contact Steenberge at (817) 219-7274. — ND —