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Aldridge: The more I read, the more I LOVE Part 2!


Guest Snatchy_McPants

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Guest Snatchy_McPants

Come hill or high water

 

James Aldridge found out there's more than corn in Indiana. Training at the dunes is just one way the Merrillville running back shows he's way behind his time. And that's a good thing.

 

BY JEFF CARROLL

jcarroll@nwitimes.com

219.933.3373

 

This story ran on nwitimes.com on Friday, August 19, 2005 12:16 AM CDT

 

Like many modern cell phones, James Aldridge's device doubles as a portal into cyberspace.

 

Between the time he made a decision on his college future, in early May, and now, the beginning of his senior football season at Merrillville, Aldridge ventured into the World Wide Web via his phone. While there, browsing his service company's online screen graphics store, Aldridge cruised right past the racks and racks of scantily clad models, turned away from the shelves of pop stars, then honed in on and purchased one of the most recognizable and antique emblems in all of athletics -- the University of Notre Dame leprechaun logo.

 

The home of Knute Rockne, Touchdown Jesus, the green jersey game and the Golden Dome.

 

His phone begins to ring. Another downloaded ancient ode to his future South Bend stomping grounds?

 

Not at all. Instead, the digitized beats of a popular rap song emanate. Aldridge talks for a minute then puts the phone away.

 

"I'm going to an oxygen bar this weekend," he reveals excitedly.

 

This is James Aldridge, a modern schoolboy athlete, lapping up the amenities available to him, who nonetheless is unafraid of immersing himself in tradition if it can be beneficial.

 

Start with the hills.

 

Several times a week this summer, Aldridge would rise at about 4:30 a.m. He doesn't use an alarm clock. Never has.

 

"This morning I wanted to get up at 6:55," Aldridge says while leading an expedition through the brush and sand of Miller Beach. "I woke up at 6:54."

 

So, likewise, without prompting during the summer, he would arise a couple hours before sunlight and by 5 a.m., be hoisting his first pounds of heavy metal in the weight room.

 

That taken care of, Aldridge would hop in his car and drive to the Gary lakefront and its sloping sand dunes.

 

"I try to do something different every summer, and they told me about the dunes and I said, 'That's something I'm gonna have to do,' " Aldridge said. "I made it part of my workout regimen, something I do every day.

 

"There's a real steep one, it goes up to about 35 feet. And there's another real steep one that goes to about 60 feet. I'd go up that one, then come down and go up the one I just came down. And that's one."

 

Scaling Lake Michigan's dunes isn't revolutionary. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Last year's Times Offensive Player of the Year, Andrean's Tommy Finn, also took on the dunes. He did so for very parallel reasons -- to present a challenge to himself that all the modern weight-training technology can't quite replicate and to rehabilitate a damaged knee.

 

After gaining 2,067 yards through the first 11 games of Merrillville's season last fall, Aldridge lined up for the opening kickoff against Penn in the Class 5A Regional.

 

It was the only time he would be on the field that night. Aldridge was hit in the left leg on the play, partially tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.

 

"It happens," Aldridge said. "I guess it was a big deal because a lot of people were expecting me to perform that game at a high level.

 

"With football, I guess things happen. That type of injury is so common now. I really wasn't shaken by it. Everybody goes through football rehab. Just get back."

 

Unlike most people, who do their living in 16-hour daytime chunks, followed by eight hours or so of sleep, Aldridge says his days extend the full 24 hours. Though he's an early to rise guy, that doesn't mean he's early to bed.

 

Aldridge would run the dunes on a few short hours of sleep, then nap for a few hours at home afterward before awakening -- on time, sans alarm clock -- to head to his summer job at Cardinal Fitness facility on U.S. 30 in Merrillville.

 

"Then you won't be idle-minded," Aldridge explained, addressing his self-imposed busy schedule. "Then you won't go do something weird. I always try to keep myself occupied, so that way my mind won't go start wandering and I'll go waste my time spending money when I don't need to spend it or one of those types of things."

 

It makes life easy on a coach when his most talented player is also his hardest worker.

 

"I defy you to find 5 percent body fat on him," said Merrillville coach Jeff Yelton. "It's not there.

 

"He has a phenomenal work ethic. He doesn't boast about it, he doesn't make a big deal about it. He just does it. You don't have to tell him. There is no rep at practice that he does that isn't at game speed."

 

Already, Aldridge has adopted the sleep patterns of a college student. And that's not such a bad thing. He's on schedule to graduate from Merrillville after the first semester this year. He says he will enroll for classes at Notre Dame beginning in January, a privilege that Notre Dame has generally discouraged and even now only considers on an extremely strict, case-by-case basis.

 

Aldridge grew up in Florissant, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. Until last year, he attended football power Hazelwood Central High School. As a sophomore, he shared carries behind A.J. Jimmerson, now a freshman at Michigan State.

 

He moved to Merrillville before last school year, immediately earning the starting tailback job.

 

"I thought it would be corn, corn, corn everywhere," Aldridge said.

 

He had been playing organized football since he was 6, one of the worst players on his team by his own admission.

 

That soon changed.

 

"I don't like to label myself as a running back or a wide receiver," Aldridge said. "I'm a football player. I like to play football. It's a rough sport. I think football is a man's sport.

 

"I think that's what boys should play. Boys should grow up playing football."

 

Merrillville quarterback Evan Parker remembers the first time he watched Aldridge practice. The microscope was on the hotshot move-in at that point.

 

The Pirates weren't jealous or resentful of the attention being foisted on the well-built newcomer. They were hopeful that he'd live up to the hype and help them contend for Duneland Conference and Sectional 1 titles, accomplishments that had eluded the program for a long time.

 

"The first time I saw him, I threw a pass to him and he dropped it," Parker said. "I told Coach, I said, 'Man, I think he should just be on defense.' Then after that first game he played in, I wanted him back on my side."

 

In his first game at Merrillville, in Week 1 against E.C. Central, Aldridge ran for 172 yards. The next week, against Chicago Dunbar, he scored six touchdowns. Parker's doubts were vanquished.

 

Merrillville would go on to an 11-1 season, capturing both of the titles they eyed before the season began.

 

"I'd never seen the things he did in a game before," Parker said. "He works so hard for every yard. He's trying to get that first down, trying to get the touchdown. I don't think average tailbacks can make the plays that he does. The way he cuts, the way he moves, the way he dodges the tacklers, you can tell right off the bat that he's on way on another level than other high school tailbacks.

 

"If I was on defense, I think I'd be a little bit scared. He's that intimidating."

 

Parker's assessment is accurate, judging from the opinion of an opposing coach.

 

"He's so versatile -- he has the power game, he has the speed game," said Crown Point coach Chip Pettit. "He's truly a football player, he's not just a tailback. You've almost got to prepare for anything with a player like that. You literally have to just keep running everybody at the football and be relentless in your pursuit.

 

"When the whistle blows and he's on the ground, that's the only time you can let up."

 

Aldridge's rise to the top of national recruiting lists has been meteoric. Less than a year ago, he was talking about playing defensive back in college, a common destination for high school tailbacks who don't quite have that extra something to run the ball successfully at the next level.

 

That changed quickly. Though Aldridge had offseason knee surgery, no one shied away. He estimates he was sitting on more than 50 offers when he chose Notre Dame, including a tempting last-minute offer from 2003 co-national champion LSU. It had been Aldridge's childhood dream to play in the Southeastern Conference.

 

But if his workout commitment is old-school, so is his dedication to his word.

 

"The neat part is, when USC came in," Yelton said, "I told him that James is committed to Notre Dame, but we'll give you an opportunity to talk to him. He said, 'Coach, we're not intimidated by Notre Dame. We're going to continue to recruit him.'

 

"James looked at him, eye-to-eye contact, and said, 'Coach, my commitment is my word. You can recruit me all you want. I'm going to Notre Dame.' "

 

Aldridge has already begun to familiarize himself with the legacy of Notre Dame running backs -- Allen Pinkett, Vagan Ferguson, Jerome Bettis, Ricky Watters.

 

He has been touted as one of new coach Charlie Weis' first big-name recruits. But he realizes, that like it was when he moved into Merrillville with much hype a year ago, it's not the prior reputation that will write his legacy. It is whether he lives up to it.

 

"You ask yourself, 'What kind of mark can I leave on this program with so much tradition already, so much history?' " Aldridge said. "I know a lot of students come to Notre Dame wanting to play football, wanting to get out.

 

"I want to actually leave a mark on Notre Dame. I want to set the tone. I want to be the golden child for this class and for this coaching staff."

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Guest SirJohn

I want to actually leave a mark on Notre Dame. I want to set the tone. I want to be the golden child for this class and for this coaching staff."

_________________

 

 

Yep! :D I wouldn't care what star ranking anyone gave him. I'd want a player like that no matter what. And he is coming in January :D :D So gets a jump start right there.

 

So we are thin. So we don't have the highest ranked players. Coach inspires that then you have something special.

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Guest Champion10

"I don't like to label myself as a running back or a wide receiver," Aldridge said. "I'm a football player. I like to play football. It's a rough sport. I think football is a man's sport.

 

 

 

Got to love that.

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Guest SirJohn

:D"The neat part is, when USC came in," Yelton said, "I told him that James is committed to Notre Dame, but we'll give you an opportunity to talk to him. He said, 'Coach, we're not intimidated by Notre Dame. We're going to continue to recruit him.'

 

"James looked at him, eye-to-eye contact, and said, 'Coach, my commitment is my word. You can recruit me all you want. I'm going to Notre Dame.' "

:D :D

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Guest domehead

watch this super stud..become a superstar...hands down this guy is 100% thourogh(sp) bred..loves to punish taclers..heh heh heh ...Go IRISH

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Guest SirJohn

It's 100% solid as we just got the domehead evil laugh :D :D :D

 

I sure would not want to be some player getting in the way of that guy and the end zone. Whooooooooooo!

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Guest SirJohn

Hey Guys. I was just over at BlueGraysky. Good article on # of schola offered if you can wade through them. Very confusing rule wise.

 

However, as I read it and my NCAA book...considering Aldredge or any other player COMING IN EARLY GRADUATING EARLY FROM HS in JANUARY to ND.

 

We have Alddrege committed. (Period) He is one of 12 recruits 2005 out of 25 offers ND can give. Under the rule he is (or anyone coming in a semester early) NOT considered a schloarship for current crop 2005 but will be lumped into the 15th or now 16 Coach Weis offered in 2004.

 

Duh! Which in effect tho we have 12 taken of 25 this year one is then considered 2004 so Coach Weis picks up an extra offer and has 14 to play with not 13 this year. We are builing fast.

 

:lol: :lol: I know this is ummm difficult to grasp and confusing.

 

Putting it simpler ND has an extra offer this year for some lucky player.

 

Add to that anyone else coming into ND in January just adds another Coach Weis can offer. The future is really bright

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