Get football instruction from Notre Dame players? Area kids can Saturday at Saint Joe High

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — For former Notre Dame linebacker Adam Shibley, it was important that Saturday’s TUFF Takeoff Tour at Saint Joseph High School be both affordable and fun. 

More than 30 active Irish football players have committed to helping Shibley with the youth football camp at Leighton Stadium. The 2-4 p.m. session is open to kids entering the fourth to eighth grades, while the 6-8 p.m. session is for those entering the ninth through 12th grades.

In exchange, The Uniform Funding Foundation (TUFF) asks for at least a $1 donation as it continues to expand its mission of providing uniforms, equipment and mentorship to underserved youth. South Bend Orthopedics is one of the key sponsors of the event. 

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“Getting these players in front of the youth that may not have the money to pay for a $150 camp, that’s going to be everything,” Shibley recently said on the “Pod of Gold” podcast. “You’re going to learn directly from the players who have coaching  from Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees. To be able to relay those messages and those concepts directly to young athletes for $1 or $10, whatever it may be, that’s priceless for these families.”

Current Notre Dame stars Tyler Buchner, Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey allowed their likenesses to be used in promotional material for the event, which is the second of its kind for TUFF. Among those also expected to attend as counselors are Marist Liufau, Cam Hart and a host of projected starters this fall.

Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau (8) waves to fans during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Liufau is expected to participate in local football camp Saturday at South Bend Saint Joseph High School.

“It’s great to see my teammates making a lot of money from other businesses (through NIL),” Shibley said, “but to come work for a nonprofit in ways that they don’t really care about receiving much pay, that’s what shows me what great guys these people are. The willingness from the guys to serve the community has been incredible."

Shibley founded the organization during his four-year career at Michigan, where he was among the 2021 Big Ten Medal of Honor winners for demonstrating excellence on and off the field. In May he earned a master’s in management as a graduate transfer at Notre Dame, playing in six games in a special teams role before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. 

Shibley, who grew up in the Cleveland area and played at St. Ignatius High School, launched his nonprofit after thinking about the drive through surrounding neighborhoods to work out in his high school summers. 

“There would be kids lined up on the streets in the summertime, fundraising for their upcoming football seasons,” he said. “That always stuck with me because I never had to do that being a kid from the suburbs. I was blessed with brand-new equipment each year. I didn’t have to worry about pay-to-play fees.” 

Notre Dame defensive back Cam Hart (5) during a Notre Dame spring football practice on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in South Bend. Hart is expected to participate in local football camp Saturday at South Bend Saint Joseph High School.

While active college athletes often appear as counselors at university-sponsored summer skills camps, Shibley thought it was important to organize this as an independent endeavor. Along with walk-on wide receiver Conor Ratigan, a Saint Joseph product, Shibley started working on Saturday’s program a few months ago. 

“If you were to go to a Notre Dame football scouting camp, there’s some guys that are being paid to be there,” Shibley said. “Obviously their coaches are on the field with them, so you’re not going to see their true personality. In this player-led environment … we’ll be able to scream, enjoy ourselves, get the energy up. Guys will feel at home. We’re going to create a really fun memory for a lot of these kids.” 

Staff writer Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. Email him at mberardino@gannett.com and follow on on Twitter @MikeBerardino.