The Brigham Young Cougars travel to South Bend, Indiana, this week. South Bend is not only the home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it is the home of the College Football Hall of the Fame. South Bend is a Mecca for college football fans. For the BYU football team this won't be a vacation. This is a business trip.
With Notre Dame undefeated and ranked number 5 in the nation, it could be easy to get wrapped up in the mystique of Notre Dame football. It isn't by accident that the College Football Hall of Fame is located in the same city. Few schools can boast the tradition that the Fighting Irish have.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't allowing himself, or his team, to be tourists this week. After practice on Monday, Mendenhall said his focus is on the game.
"I think once our players get there they'll realize it's a nice place, it's a historic place to play, full of tradition," Mendnehall explained, "but we just have to play."
Linebacker Spencer Hadley understands that his mentality as a player has to be different then the mentality of a fan. He understands the history of this week's opponent, but can differentiate the awe of a fan from his job as a football player.
"It’s cool," Hadley said. "I don’t really get sucked into the hype of it all. It’ll be fun to go to South Bend and play there. Fans get to approach it that way but as players we don’t really get to look at it like that. It’s a business trip. It’s not like we’re going to Disneyland. We’re going to play a football game and we’re preparing as such. As far as it being historic, I don’t get into it so much."
Playing Notre Dame, in Notre Dame Stadium, does add an element of pageantry for the game that doesn't happen every week.
The pageantry prompted tight end Kaneakua Friel to say, "I think it just makes it for a nice game. We’re going to a stadium we’ve never been to."
Friel also noticed that the Notre Dame tradition isn't something he should let intimidate him.
"They have a lot of tradition kind of like we have traditions here at BYU."
Some BYU players won't be influenced by Notre Dame's history simply because they are ignorant to it.
"I never grew up really a Notre Dame fan or anything like that," said quarterback Riley Nelson. "It’s going to be a big noisy stadium and they are No. 5 in the country. Other than that I don’t know much about it."
As many BYU fans expect to learn first hand this weekend, there is a lot for football fans to see and do in South Bend to make their time there memorable. For the BYU football team, they aren't going to South Bend as sightseers. This is business. They will be there for one reason only: to win a football game.
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