Sharpley: Notre Dame football team will receive Purdue's best shot

Evan Sharpley
South Bend Tribune Correspondent

Imagine yourself as a top high school football prospect. The whole world is at your fingertips. Fans want to know what type of cereal you eat for breakfast, why you’re always on “ the grind,” and most importantly, everyone wants to know what schools are in your top five.

Why would you decide to choose Notre Dame? There are a multitude of reasons. Notre Dame offers challenging yet prestigious academic courses. The university is well known for its long-standing history and tradition. As one traverses the campus, picturesque beauty is overwhelming. I won’t keep you guessing on the true sell that Notre Dame is able to offer top tier athletes: exposure.

The previously mentioned reasons make Notre Dame what it is and are a large reason why athletes come to the university, but the Notre Dame brand brings instantaneous exposure because of tradition and continued excellence. Anybody brought in is exposed to that tradition and excellence.

From my experience, playing in an atmosphere like this weekend in Indianapolis against Purdue will provide Irish football players with an increased sense of focus. Players know they come to Notre Dame to play in venues like Lucas Oil Stadium and become privy to an NFL-like experience.

When playing a lesser opponent, the concern is playing to that team’s level. This year, Notre Dame has taken care of business and disposed of teams of lesser caliber. Most every team has the capability of playing at a high level. At times in the recent past, the Irish have gotten into trouble by allowing teams to “hang in.” Once a team feels they can compete with Notre Dame, its confidence increases.

The sooner a coach, and subsequently the team, recognizes, accepts, and prepares that each game is the biggest game of the season, the better the team will play. Playing as a huge favorite, rather than as the “hunter,” can be difficult. Focus and preparation must be replicated regardless of the opponent.

This is easier said than done. What makes college football so interesting, yet equally frustrating, is teaching 18-21 year-olds to play consistently. Coaches can pound away at the need for focus. Team leaders can encourage teammates to increase intensity. Oftentimes, the most difficult games are those when an opponent should be dominated.

The very best teams learn to compete with themselves on a weekly basis. Perhaps it is not to defeat a specific team, but rather to personally or collectively improve.

Notre Dame football players continue to have unique opportunities for exposure while playing in high profile venues against one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

What makes the schedule even harder? Notre Dame’s reputation. Every team, every week, gives Notre Dame its best shot because of the name.

When Notre Dame is playing at the level of a premier program, it is an opportunity for an opponent to define its season. When Notre Dame isn’t preeminent, it’s a chance to kick them while they’re down.

Either way, as part of the Fighting Irish, you get a team’s best shot so BE READY! Go Irish!

In addition to his weekly column, former Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley previews upcoming games each Friday at 7:50 a.m. on WSBT’s JT in the Morning Show (960 AM and 96.1 FM). On Mondays, Sharpley co-hosts WSBT’s Notre Dame Football Final, which airs from 9-10 a.m. He’ll also be an occasional contributor to WSBT’s Weekday SportsBeat and Gameday SportsBeat radio programs. Sharpley owns and operates Sharpley Training in Mishawaka.

Expect Purdue to come out firing with a chance to prove something against Notre Dame. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)