MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - It’s easy to forget that the players on Notre Dame have never experienced fanfare like they have during this week in Miami.
From the moment they got off the plane, Notre Dame fans have swarmed the players like locust and it’s made some of the guys a little uncomfortable. After all, Notre Dame hasn’t played for a national championship since 1988 and hasn’t even had a lot of success nationally until this season.
“It’s never been anything like this, not even a little bit,” running back Theo Riddick said. “We’ve had some average years and then to come to this is like a culture shock. We have security and they try to do the best they can to not have the fans bombard us so much, but there’s only so much they can do.”
Every time Notre Dame walks into its hotel, fans shove papers and T-shirts and other memorabilia into their faces asking for signatures. The players, who are overwhelmed, try their best to accommodate everyone, but as the days in Miami have trekked on, it’s become annoyance more than something most guys used to enjoy.
“You have to learn how to be a little bit mean and I still have a hard time doing that,” linebacker Prince Shembo said. “So I used to just sign everything, but I’ve got to start putting a limit on it now. I had to realize that.”
Alabama hasn’t been as fazed by all the fan attention as Notre Dame because not only did the Crimson Tide deal with it during the national championship a year ago, they also dealt with it at SEC media days and pretty much every Saturday after games.
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Shembo said he didn’t know how bad it was going to be until the team encountered one fan at the Miami Heat game, who wouldn’t leave the Irish alone and then followed the team buses back to the team hotel and continued to press for autographs on multiple items.
“Hounded is the right word,” Shembo said. “It’s wild to me.
“You should have more pride than that in my opinion.”
Several players said they do still stop to sign autographs for kids, but they limited indulging adults who come with multiple items that inevitably will end up on eBay or some other auction site for profit.
“We sign for the kids, but the fanatic adults that go crazy kind of creep me out a little bit,” Shembo said. “If it’s a kid, OK, but I don’t want no 50-year-old coming at me asking me to sign stuff. They’re obviously going to sell it.”
But Riddick said it’s all part of the experience and while it does get overwhelming at times, Notre Dame players are thankful for the passion their fans have shown this season.
“It comes with the territory,” Riddick said. “But what can you say? We have great fans.”
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