Irish Invasion 'surreal' for Notre Dame LB target Cameron McGrone

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Eight months ago, Cameron McGrone tore the ACL in his right knee. On Saturday night, he was running around Notre Dame Stadium as if nothing had happened at all.

“When I got on the field, it was like a game day,” said the rising senior linebacker from Indianapolis Lawrence Central. “It was so hype.”

The road to recovery was long, but there McGrone was knocking into an opposing running back as if the tag-off drill was full contact. The four-star recruit had been to Notre Dame twice before, but the Irish Invasion camp meant a little bit more.

“Sometimes I would just look up and be like, 'I'm in Notre Dame Stadium playing football,’” McGrone said. “It's pretty surreal.”

McGrone may have been more excited than most recruits taking the field Saturday night. Both Rivals and 247Sports peg him as one of the top 16 linebackers in the 2018 class, and he’s already received scholarship offers from major programs, including Notre Dame, but he was flying around the field like he had something to prove.

In the open-field tackling drill, which requires a linebacker to try to get in position to tackle a running back without actually finishing the tackle, McGrone knocked down one of his opponents with a strike.

"Without pads, for me it's so difficult to not totally blow up the guy. When I'm running up to him, I try to break that space down in between us. I'm usually patient and wait for the guy to cut,” McGrone said. “I don't know if he was just surprised that I got there so quickly and closed that space so fast, but he was staying in one spot.

“I'm taught that if he's still in the same spot, there's no reason to start shuffling. Keep running. So I'm still waiting on him to cut. By the time I got to him, we collided so fast. He got all the pain on that one."

The pain of last October becomes more of a distant memory as McGrone’s recruitment continues to thrive. Not long after he was fully cleared to resume football activities, McGrone received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame in May. He’s been keeping a close eye on the Irish ever since.

McGrone added a much greater understanding of the coaching staff on his most recent visit to South Bend, which included his first meeting with head coach Brian Kelly.

"He's a really good guy,” McGrone said. “Even though his team had a bad season last year, he has big shoulders and just put it on himself. He was saying he was doing stuff wrong and this year it definitely won't happen again. I have a lot of confidence in him."

The added bonus of attending a camp like the Irish Invasion is the ability to receive coaching from what could be your future coach. McGrone liked what he saw from linebackers coach Clark Lea.

"I found a bunch of similarities between him and my high school coach right now. Their demeanor and the way they coach are the same,” McGrone said. “Coach Lea tells me that I'm doing everything right in the drill, but he tells me a little thing I can change to make it even better. I really liked that about him. He's not that coach that's going to get in you and cuss you out on the field. He's just going to be really professional with you and tell you what you need to do to get better."

A day before visiting Notre Dame, McGrone made a trip to Wisconsin. Next on McGrone’s itinerary is a visit to Michigan on June 22, which could be his final visit of the summer. After that, McGrone said he hopes to whittle his choices down to five top schools with an eventual commitment not likely to come until during or after his senior season.

McGrone will have to narrow his list down from a group that already includes Wisconsin, Louisville, Tennessee and Nebraska. After another visit, the Irish appear to be a serious contender moving forward.

“There has been major talk about how strong the alumni is, the people you can meet and the education you can get at Notre Dame,” McGrone said. “I see that as a big selling point. That's real. That degree holds so much power. The football history is pretty well-known. Even though they had a bad season last year, the football history is so great. It's kind of hard to beat."

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Cameron McGrone runs drills during Irish Invasion Saturday, June 10, 2017, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN