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Guest Snatchy_McPants

TOM WYATT COLUMN: Aldridge brings determination to offseason work as well

July 12, 2005



Taking a handoff and darting through a gap while every lineman, linebacker and defensive back is intent on burying your sternum about a foot into the turf involves little planning.


A running back will tell you it’s a matter of preparation for such moments and reacting when the time comes.


That’s certainly the way James Aldridge goes about his business on the football field. And that just happens to be the way the Merrillville senior-to-be handles everyday life, including his classroom duties.


For Aldridge, one of the nation’s top-ranked running backs and a Notre Dame recruit, it appears there’s a fine line between fretting over the future and simply doing what needs to be done to get there.


And here’s an impressive for instance: Aldridge will be eligible to graduate high school after the first semester. Afterward, he hopes to enroll for classes at Notre Dame and get a head start on his college education.


Aldridge needs just three classes to complete his high school requirements. He’ll actually take five, improving on his math and science requirements by taking statistics and advanced-placement biology.


Aldridge’s 2,067 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns last season for the Pirates after moving in from the St. Louis area tell you why every football school in the nation would love to have his services. Now you know why he’ll end up at Notre Dame.


“You know what, I really don’t even think about that stuff too much; I just do it,” Aldridge said. “My parents just tell me to be a step ahead of everyone.


“That’s pretty much how I go about it in football as well as in the classroom.”


In June, Aldridge began going all out in preparation for his senior football season. He had anterior cruciate ligament-replacement surgery in February.


He suffered the knee injury while fielding the opening kickoff in Merrillville’s season-ending loss to Penn in a Class 5A regional last November.


To the average person, an ACL injury might sound like serious stuff. Perhaps it is, but Aldridge isn’t concerned in the least.


He’s been working out like a mad man, taking trips to the dunes in Miller with teammates and strengthening his legs in the sand and water.


“Actually, I’m faster,” Aldridge said. “I can tell I’m faster.”


And with official high school practice set to start in less than three weeks, that’s bad news for the rest of the Duneland Conference and anyone standing in the Pirates’ way come playoff time.


Because not only does Aldridge have a dynamite team surrounding him, he feels he has something to prove.


“I’m just preparing to have another successful year and trying to establish myself and show that (last year) wasn’t a fluke,” Aldridge said. “I want to put my mark on Northwest Indiana football.


“It’s a personal thing for me. I want to come back and have a repeat year.”


Make that a repeat and then some. And don’t doubt that Aldridge is prepared to do so.


Contact Tom Wyatt at 648-3140 or twyatt@post-trib.com



........and what's this I read about early enrollment? GO IRISH!

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Guest Irish19

Aldridge was truly a great catch and he seems to be getting better and better. The only thing I'm worried about was that he tore his ACL before. I hope he doesn't reaggravate that. Otherwise he should be solid for the Irish from Day 1.

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Guest Snatchy_McPants

Hog, do you recall an earlier article on Aldridge when he said he expected to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman? When asked when he thought he would see significant playing time, he said it would be from the first time he touches the ball. He then went on to predict 250 yard rushing games against all of the major in-state rivals of Merrillville. I can't remember if it was posted on a free site or if it was from Irisheyes during the free weekend. If you have it, that might be a good one to post, I love that article.

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Guest Snatchy_McPants

Irish19, I'm going to see Aldridge play in person either on 9/9 at home against Portage or 9/30 away at Valparaiso, maybe both. I'll come back with a full report of what I see. There's a good chance I'll get to talk with him as my brother-in-law broadcasts games in NW Indiana. He watched him play last season and told me that you simply have to see it to believe it. Can't wait.

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Guest Irish19

That's awesome. The kid is going to be great. I wish I could. If he doesn't enroll at ND early, maybe we'll all be lucky enough to see him in the All-American game.

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Guest IrishHog


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Guest Snatchy_McPants

Sweet! I found the article on my hard drive! My apologies ahead of time if I'm not supposed to post this, but I got it from Irisheyes during their free weekend.


Aldridge at the Dunes


By Brian Smith

Date: Jun 27, 2005


James Aldridge takes on the challenge of the Dunes four times a week. I had the opportunity to see him live and in person working out and it was more than one would expect. After working out Aldridge had a few comments about recruiting and his freshman season at Notre Dame as well.



It’s a lot of fun watching football. If it wasn’t, none of you would be reading this article and I would be out of a job.


But beyond the intense action played on the gridiron in Notre Dame Stadium and across the country there is the countless hours of training that anyone rarely sees outside of the football players and coaches themselves.


Fortunately for me that is not the case with James Aldridge, TB, 6-2, 214-pounds, Crown Point, Ind., (Merrillville). The Notre Dame commitment lives within driving distance so I decided to check out his now infamous “Dunes” workout. It did not disappoint.


Aldridge opens the weight room around 5 am even before his coaches arrive. After an extensive workout he runs with his teammates. Today was a little rougher than usual.


“We ran for fifteen minutes,” Aldridge commented. “But it was all sprints!”


Then it was off to the Dunes located on Lake Michigan in Miller, Ind.


“I don’t think you could make it up the hill one time,” Aldridge said to me point blank. While I beg to differ, holding the camera was enough for this day. (And yes, just making it up and down the hill without falling down is quite the task)


The Dunes are nothing more than hills of loose sand that will make any workout become extreme with just one attempt. After watching Aldridge and three of his teammates race up and down the two hills just twice it was clear just how difficult it was.


Of course I had to up the ante by telling Aldridge he should do high-knees and sprints in Lake Michigan. I didn’t honestly think he’d do it considering how much he had done already this morning. I was wrong.


Having shot footage of Aldridge in the water is a good thing. You see there is no real way to explain how natural an athlete he is unless you see it for yourself. And there is no doubting how explosive and quick Aldridge is just by watching his highlight video; but Aldridge is even more impressive running sprints in the water at speeds most people could not do on dry land.


The one piece of bad news I have from this whole experience is that Notre Dame fans are not going to like the name Mike Neal over the course of the next four or five years. He graduated from Merrillville High School this year and will be playing along the defensive line for the Boilermakers. He’s ripped up at roughly 6-4, 250-pounds. And he can run. He stayed with Aldridge during a race for about 20 yards despite giving up 35 pounds in weight.


After leaving the Dunes James sat down with me to answer a few questions.


What are your freshman goals at Notre Dame?


“To actually get a decent amount of carries…rush for a 1,000 yards. Just make a statement.”


How long do think it will take you to crack the starting lineup if you are planning to rush for 1,000 yards your freshman season?


“First game.”


First game, you think you can crack the starting lineup in your first game?


“After the first game. After I get a few carries the first game.”


Why did you choose Notre Dame?


“I kind of asked myself…where would I want to get an education if I didn’t play football. Notre Dame was the answer…plus, you know, playing football at Notre Dame is like a benefit. Plus all the academics and education so you know…”


What other recruits would you like to see Notre Dame sign and why?


“First person who probably comes to mind is…uh, Chris Stewart...David Ausberry, Darrin Walls, Raeshon McNeil, Bartley Webb, Sam Young and uh, Matt Carufel. I forgot Toryan Smith!”


And why do you want those guys?


“They just seem like they should be Irish!”


I cut the interview short because Aldridge wanted to rest before going back to the gym to workout at 4 pm using elastic bands to pull him back while running. True dedication.


SMITTY’S TAKE - It was a good time watching Aldridge work out and then talking a little football. I am already looking forward to my return trip to see Aldridge play this fall.


Aldridge really wants to play with other great players so he is truly interested in the other recruits that Notre Dame signs. He is of course most interested in the offensive linemen and always asks me about the recruitment of players such as Young, Webb, Carufel, Daron Rose and Stewart just to name a few.


Aldridge is also fully aware that football is not just about running the football. He always asks me about Ausberry, Richard Jackson and practically every other recruit offered by head coach Charlie Weis. Aldridge wants to win.

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Guest Irish19

I love that article. The more I hear about Aldridge, the more I like. I think the Irish will get some, if not most, of those recruits. Something great is going on at Notre Dame, and James Aldridge provides evidence.

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Guest IrishHog

Thanks Snatchy. That's a great article. I hadn't read that before but this guy sounds like the real deal. I don't know if he'll get that chance his freshman year with Darius still in town, but I look forward to see him perform. Go Irish!!

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Guest Snatchy_McPants

Whether or not it comes true remains to be seen, but I love his confidence. He's not too outlandish, just stating things as if they were facts. I can picture him straight-faced, business as usual during the interview. Can't wait to see him make his point out on the field.

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