Women punt, pass and tackle in the Notre Dame camp to raise money for breast cancer research.
NOTRE DAME — Steve Elmer lined up — padded shield in hand — for a blocking drill on Notre Dame’s practice field.
It’s a drill that he’s likely done a thousand times as an offensive lineman, but the question he got had to be a first coming from an opponent.
“What position do you play?” the woman lining up across from him asked.
“I’m a tackle,” Elmer said. “There are guards, tackles and centers on the offensive line.”
The whistle sounded and the woman drove into Elmer as he back-pedaled five yards. On the next field over, running back George Atkinson drilled a 10-yard field goal while nose guard Louis Nix ran kickoff coverage drills.
Notre Dame football players, assistant coaches and supporters took part in the program’s fourth annual Kelly Cares Foundation Football 101 camp, a one-day clinic for women who wanted to learn the basics of the game while supporting breast cancer research, prevention and treatment.
Paqui Kelly, wife of head coach Brian Kelly and two-time breast cancer survivor, runs the clinic and said this year’s camp has an extra significance. It marks both the fifth and 10th year she’s been cancer-free.
“I didn’t get to celebrate my first five (years) because I was going through my second diagnosis,” she said. “Every day is truly a gift and I’m so pleased to be here. I’m glad I’m getting older is what I say.”
The camp sold out its full 600-person capacity for the fourth year in a row, which Kelly said encourages her to look toward expansion in the future. She joked that she’s seeing a lot of progress from “fourth-year seniors” who have come to the clinic since the Kellys came to South Bend.
“We’ve got some really dedicated participants” she said. “I don’t know if any of them are scholarship material, but they’re trying.”
While the coaches ran the 600 women through stretches, field goal attempts, punts, blocking and passing drills, the players eagerly interacted, often stopping to sign an autograph or pose for a picture.
“This thing would not go without the whole team,” Kelly said. “They are a vital part. They are very enthusiastic. They love to take part in this, and it’s wonderful to see people see them in that light.”