Irish defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore refused to let Saturday morning’s practice be just another day at the office. The opening day of fall camp has become old hat for Lewis-Moore — it is his fifth after all — but he’s making a point to take nothing for granted this season.
Kapron Lewis-Moore has a new appreciation for playing football after missing six games last year.
Notre Dame’s fifth-year veteran on the defensive line returns to South Bend after missing the second half of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He said a long winter of grinding rehab left him with a fully healed leg and a new appreciation for the day-to-day ability to play college football.
“I’m actually just looking forward to having some fun out there,” he said. “It’s a grind, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t, but I think we have to enjoy the grind. Football doesn’t last forever, it’s a fun game.”
Lewis-Moore’s jaw contained his smile about as well as his practice jersey contained his torso during his first trip from the locker room to the practice field Saturday morning, which is to say both were bursting. The 300-plus pounder has added some bulk during what he called the toughest and most productive summer he’s had on campus.
He couldn’t point to an exact time that he adopted the enjoy-the-moment attitude, but said it carried him through spring practice and a summer where he started to really see the results of the Irish workout program.
“I’m not saying everybody wasn’t buying into the program before, but [this year] everybody could see the results that could happen, and see that [strength coach Paul] Longo knows what he’s talking about. So, having everybody give that extra effort or push or extra rep that goes a long way,” Lewis-Moore said.
He said he planned to take the same focused approach to each rep and play on the field as fall camp and the regular season unfold in the months to come. With four years under his belt, he’s learned enough tricks to get the most of out even the most fundamental meetings and drills in the early going of camp.
This year, along with lending a hand to a young, large and promising group of underclassmen, Lewis-Moore said he wants to get a better grasp of the entire defense rather than just what’s going on in front of him. Understanding the whole system will let him be more of a leader on the field and be more effective at his own job at the same time.
“Everyday I’m trying to look for something new so I can teach myself or take something to the next level,” he said. “If we’re going over our base package, you know maybe I might this year see what Manti is doing [in that particular defense]. It’s not really hard to find something new.”
Notre Dame as a whole will need to take the same step-by-step approach while staring down arguably the toughest schedule in the country this year. Kelly mentioned the same mantra during his opening remarks Friday afternoon and it seems to have trickled down at least to his senior leaders during fall camp.
“Obviously you want to go in and win every game, but at the same time we can’t look ahead to USC,” Lewis-Moore said. “We all know USC is ranked pretty high. You’ve got everybody on offense coming back and stuff, but we gotta take care of Navy first. We’ve got 11 games before that. I think if we just focus on one day at a time one rep at a time, if we just focus on our next game, I think the rest will take of itself.”