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Notre Dame Football

Matt Bockhorst Goes In-Depth on ND Physicality & Relationship with Tommy Kraemer

November 4, 2020

When Clemson stops by Notre Dame Stadium on Friday evening, Tigers starting guard Matt Bockhorst won't be giving the historic ground much thought. 

The Cincinnati native doesn't get caught up in stadiums and usually can't wait to get back on the bus when Dabo Swinney makes the rare call to stop at an opponent's stadium the night before the game. 

It's also not out of disrespect as the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder holds great respect for the Fighting Irish as he took more than a few recruiting visits to South Bend. 

"It's definitely going to be a cool experience," Bockhorst told Irish Sports Daily. "It's nice for my family not to travel as far. Being able to play against a team where I know a lot of guys on the other team is what college football is all about. Guys are realizing their dreams and playing on the biggest stage. The fact it's a top-five matchup this time with a lot on the line is pretty cool." 

The redshirt junior might have a small chip on his shoulder this weekend as Harry Hiestand chose not to offer Bockhorst during his recruitment. However, Bockhorst has won a National Title and knows how to manage his emotions so he can play at peak performance. 

"I take a lot of pride in myself and I want to show people that I can play college football at the highest level and be successful," Bockhorst stated. "At the same time, I think if you get to wrapped up in outside factors and who you're playing or where you're playing, I think you can kind of get lost in the moment.

"It's still football. It's still a game. There are still four quarters and we have 11 players on the field. There's always some added emotion, but you can't let that consume you. You have to let it go once the ball is kicked off."  

Irish Sports Daily
Matt Bockhorst, Brian Kelly and Penn State QB Sean Clifford at Irish Invasion in 2015

Bockhorst isn't the only player from the Midwest on the Tigers roster as starting left tackle Jackson Carman also hails from Cincinnati and a few others from surrounding states. 

Saturday's game was likely circled calendar by both players because they face Notre Dame and the game serves as a test for the Clemson offensive line. 

"It's two college football heavyweights on the biggest stage," said Bockhorst. "College GameDay is going to be there. It's kind of the pinnacle of college football. Jackson and I take a lot of pride in the way we play the game and what we've been able to do this season as an offensive line unit. 

"Notre Dame's offensive line highly touted and highly rated this season. I think we want to prove we can hang with them as well."

Speaking of the Irish offensive line, Bockhorst and Notre Dame right guard Tommy Kraemer go way back as they were bitter rivals in high school. 

Kraemer attended Elder, while Bockhorst went to St. Xavier and both programs have a long and proud football history. 

The rivalry is one of the best in the country and causes issues at some dinner tables around Cincinnati's west side. In fact, Bockhorst's father suited up for Elder and just missed being coached by Mike Kraemer, Tommy's father.” 

"My dad went to Elder and Tommy did as well, so our dads knew each other," stated Bockhorst. "The GCL (Greater Catholic League) is a very tight-knit community. People take their high school football pretty seriously in Cincinnati. 

Kraemer coached the offensive line at Elder for many years is looking forward to seeing three Cincinnati guys battle it out for the top spot in the ACC and an inside track at the College Football Playoff. 

"It's very uncommon, but that's what makes this game so unique," said Kraemer. "That's the kind of football in Cincinnati. Having three starting offensive linemen for the No. 1 and No. 4 ranked team in the country is very unique." 

Bockhorst and Kraemer might have been rivals in high school, but they quickly became friends through recruiting trips and camps over the years.

"He was committed to Notre Dame and I was visiting a lot of the time, so we got to spend some time together there," Bockhorst said. "We also spent time together at the Nike Opening regional camp. 

"It was a quick and easy friendship. We have a lot of similarities coming from the same backgrounds. It's been cool to see him have his success and stay in contact." 

This year those conversations centered around COVID-19. The two schools were in different situations yet went through the same adversity over the last few months. 

The two kept in touch and let each other know what going on at each school and even discussed if the season would be played.

"I think the biggest difference was Clemson football had our wave of a lot of players testing positive a lot earlier than Notre Dame," explained Bockhorst. "We were talking along the lines of what we were hearing about being able to play and with Notre Dame being in the ACC now, we kind of had a reliable source outside of our own football complex." 

As it relates to Saturday’s clash, Bockhorst knows it's going to be a dog fight as he and other Clemson players stated Notre Dame was the most physical team they played during the 2018 title run. 

"That sentiment was true," said Bockhorst. "Playing in the box and the front six, you better have your chinstrap buckled tight. That's the way I love to play. I love games like that. Notre Dame's backers fill downhill really hard. The two defensive tackles are stout guys. 41 (Kurt Hinish) is a fire hydrant. 

"You better come with your big boy britches on and ready to hit. I love playing in games like this. I'm excited." 

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