Notre Dame defensive end Aiden Gobaira is on campus just over a month after enrolling early.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder had one final tune-up before heading to South Bend as he competed in the All-American Bowl. Gobaira showed he was one of the best players in the class during the week, but the former four-star prospect would never let you know.
“My week in San Antonio was awesome,” Gobaira said. “It was definitely a place where I could see how my skills were really forming against elite guys. I don’t want to say I was the best pass thrower or one of the best there because that there were crazy guys like Dani Dennis Sutton, Marvin Jones, Mykel Williams – those guys are elite.
“Watching them play and trying to pick up moves from them was really cool.”
The Virginia native also had the chance to work as an inside lineman, something you’ll get from time to time during All-Star games. Gobaira embraced it and took it as an opportunity to learn.
“A bit forced inside here and there,” laughed Gobaira. “It was good. New experiences – if I try to play, I can play anywhere. If they need me to play tackle, I will play tackle at 230 pounds trying to move people .”
Yes, 230 pounds is a bit light for indoors, but Matt Balis can shape the rusher over the next few months.
COVID delayed Gobaira’s junior season to spring 2021 and most didn’t recognize him when he stepped onto the pitch. The former Chantilly star gained around 30 pounds between his second and first year, which helped take his game to the next level.
“Adding that weight was huge,” Gobaira said. “In my second year, I was quicker trying to get around people. My first year, I was able to threaten to shove and enter people’s spaces, then also work at the outside. It added versatility to my game.”
Gobaira has gone through many transitions since arriving on campus. Adjusting to college life is always tough, but his defensive line coach headed to Michigan.
New defensive line coach Al Washington has already made an effort to get to know his guys and Gobaira was impressed.
“I’m super excited to work with Coach Washington,” Gobaira explained. “I met him a bit one-on-one. He talked to me about how he was really into filmmaking, a big family guy.
“I heard from my roommate Josh (Burnham), who has had many recruiting discussions with Coach Washington, that he really is a great guy and that I should get to know him. That’s my plan. I will get to know him and learn from him.”
Training sessions with Balis have also been an adjustment for Gobaira and his fellow early registrants. Still, Gobaira makes sure to follow the example of the Irish veterans and assimilate everything.
“Seeing older guys like Isaiah Foskey, Justin (Ademilola) and those guys leading by example, I’m trying to get to their level of play,” Gobaira said. “In drills, they go 100 per cent and go fast. I try to compete with them and get to that level. Seeing them work hard every day pushes me to work hard every day.
“I try to grow as much as possible. I don’t think I know anything. I’m starting from scratch. I try to take all the information from Coach Washington and older guys like Isaiah Foskey. I’J try to be a sponge and soak it all up.”
And yes, Gobaira soon realized that the jump to prom is important, but it’s also half the battle.
“I’m learning it’s going to be a tough road, especially starting in the weight room and entering the field with conditioning,” Gobaira said. “It’s all mental. I can’t think it’s going too hard for me. I have to train so that’s what I have to do and that’s my job. That’s my job.
“It’s really that mindset of always going 100 per cent even if it seems impossible.”