Draft Diary: Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt tracks path to the NFL (Part I)

The former Notre Dame defensive end is a projected first-round pick. What has he been doing to cement that status?

Stephon Tuitt had 21.5 sacks in three seasons at Notre Dame.

Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports

Stephon Tuitt, who played defensive end at Notre Dame, is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Tuitt will take you through the process of training for the NFL Combine, his pro day in South Bend, Ind. and the anticipation for draft day.

Right now I’m at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and I’ve been here for the last six weeks. I have a few days left before the NFL Combine. I’ve been here working and watching my weight.

To get there I had to take the soul food out of my diet. IMG Academy has an incredible nutrition program here to teach me what to eat, how to pay attention to carbs and how to take in more fiber. I now understand what the good oils and fats are that I can put in my body. Now I feel full by eating less because I’ve trained my body to do that. It’s all about training hard and eating right. I admit, though, I’m still in the process but I’m learning more each day. There would be times when I’d have a craving for a BLT burger, but now it’s all about chicken breast and vegetables. I now have the proper education on how to be a fit athlete because of the tremendous amount of resources here. The time spent with the nutritionist, dietician and strength and conditioning coaches here have been invaluable.

I love the people I’m training with. They’re some of the best guys in college football like Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert just to name a few. We’re all competitors and believe that we’re the best at what we do.

During my time here, I’ve become so much faster and quicker. I feel myself improving in the drills that I’ll do in Indy. My goal is to be one of the best at my position and I want to be well known when I leave.

I’m excited for the Combine and I’m looking forward to performing well. I’m excited to get out there and compete against some of the best athletes in the world. I’m a competitor. I really won’t be nervous in Indy. The time that I’ve spent investing into this is why I won’t be nervous. There may be some anxiety, but I think that’s normal. It’s like the butterflies in your stomach before a big game, but I’ll be having fun and I’ll be myself.

I literally have worked my butt off since I got here. When I get to the Combine I want to surprise myself. I know that I can do incredible things because of all the effort I have put into this.

A few things about me is I’m extremely driven. I’m a hardworking, dedicated individual and I want to be as successful as I can. I’ve been going so hard the past month and a half. I will not be overrun by somebody else.

At the end of the day I remember who I do this for. It’s for myself, my family and my religion. To have the opportunity to do something that I have dreamed about is surreal.

It will mean the world if I can one day provide for my family. I spend a lot of time thinking and I always remember when I grew up in Dade County. I remember not being able to play PeeWee football because I was too big. Thinking about it now, I laugh all the time. I wonder how things could be different if I started playing then, but I didn’t start playing football until high school. That’s when I moved to Georgia. I went to Monroe High School and I loved being on the field. There’s nothing like making a play on the field. When my team gets the recognition and praise that we deserve, there’s nothing in the world like it. During high school, I would spend my time away watching college football and following my favorite players. In fact, I wanted to be a quarterback, but now I play on defense so something must have gone wrong.

I love getting coached up to reach my potential. I remember my coach in high school and he introduced me to the word toughness. He taught me what it means to be mentally strong. It was crazy. He was very intense and he loved the game. He helped me so much by bringing out the intensity needed to play this game. He played my position on defensive line. He instilled so many great qualities in me like hustling, being the best and getting up when you’re knocked down. When I went to college, it just carried over.

Chuck Smith helped me with the technical part of the game. He helped me with the mindset, ability to pass rush, what to look at, how to be smart at the game and to know the defense. Those two together increased my game tremendously.

As anticipation builds for the combine I have such a strong drive and deep hunger to be the best. I can’t wait to be in front of the bright lights in Indianapolis.

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