Sheldon Day’s transition to college football has been so smooth that the Notre Dame coaching staff forgets the 6-2, 286-pound defensive end is actually a freshman, who was also accidentally omitted from this year’s Fighting Irish media guide.
The way the Indianapolis native and Warren Central High product goes about his business isn’t typical of an 18 year old. But Day has never been typical.
Rated the 10th-best defensive tackle nationally and second-best prospect at any position in the state of Indiana coming out of high school, Day graduated early to enroll at Notre Dame in the winter.
“I feel like I’ve been here for a while,” said Day, who has nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a pair of sacks, through Notre Dame’s 4-0 start this fall. “I feel like it was the way I was raised. My mom put a big emphasis on being respectful and just the little things. She raised me to have goals and standards and just be disciplined — be a leader in a way. I had to make a decision in my younger days [to be more mature], and I feel like I made the right decision.”
Veterans such as fifth-year senior defensive end Kapron Lewis Moore have played a significant role in Day’s warp-speed development, but Irish coaches knew the potential for an early impact was always there.
“He probably has just a general intelligence that’s beyond an 18 year old,” defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. “He’s got a real, I don’t know how to say it — it’s almost a little fluffy for this kind of venue — but he’s like got an old soul. He’s a very mature young man. It’s hard to even think of him as a first-year player. So many times as coaches we’ll be listing [accomplishments of first-year players], and we’ll leave Sheldon off the list altogether. He’s so mature and so productive in practices and scrimmages and games that he carries himself like an upperclassman player. It’s easy to forget about.”
Day refuses to forget about how he got to this point, why the defense has been so effective in September and what it takes to maintain dominance as Notre Dame gets set to take on Miami in Chicago Saturday.
“I just feel blessed; it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I feel like I need to get better each and every week. Kap has really brought me up under his wing and shown me how to destroy blocks better and just how to become a better player.
“I feel like since I came here early, we kind of have a group chemistry. I’m really honored to play with these guys. Just paying attention and do our jobs on defense with our assignments and doing what we’ve got to do. I feel like I’ve been a part of the time since last January, and I feel like they’ve been preparing me ever since. I feel like I was ready. I’m still the same old Sheldon.”