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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame OL Sam Pendleton Keeping Focus During Transition to College

March 13, 2023

Early enrollment is a massive step for any student-athlete. 

For Sam Pendleton, it’s been a significant change as parts around him have changed. The North Carolina native saw his offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and offensive line GA leave the Notre Dame program a month into his college career. 

That’s not easy, but Pendleton reminded himself why he chose Notre Dame.

“Getting here and right away and you have a coach change, it definitely takes a toll on you,” Pendleton explained. “But it's nothing that's going to defer me away from this place. I didn't come here to play for a coach. I came to play for Notre Dame, and I still stand by that today. Coach (Harry) Hiestand is a great coach. I really love what he did with recruiting me the way he did last year. It's not like he's gone forever. 

“Coach (Chris) Watt, he was great as well. That combination, him leaving a little bit later, was really good to really kind of, give a cushion to the blow. Coach (Joe) Rudolph is doing a great job here. He recruited me to Virginia Tech in my recruiting process. We just picked up right where we left off and he's just been fantastic.  He's just very intentional about what he does. He's always open. It's been a transition, but I've enjoyed it.”

Rudolph recruited several of Notre Dame’s offensive linemen, but Pendleton was the latest and the two had a good relationship during the year. 

Pendleton is high on the hire for Notre Dame, but also selfishly as there is a relationship there and he’s not completely starting over. 

“Early in my recruitment,  they were really big for me because I had family members that went there and they were pretty close to home,” Pendleton said of Rudolph and Virginia Tech. “He was just super adamant about the culture he was building and what he has to offer as a coach. It just wasn't where I saw myself, but him being here, it's just a little bonus for me, because not only do I know him personally, but he knows me. He recruited me. It's not like I got a coach who doesn't know anything about me.”

Rudolph also has met with each offensive lineman one-on-one since arriving at The Gug and that’s something Pendleton and his teammates appreciated. 

“He gave me an opportunity to ask him questions,” Pendleton said. “He gave me an opportunity to criticize anything throughout my process, like give just be completely open and he was just super great about answering my questions. I had no issue with him being my coach. I love Coach Rudolph, I love what he's doing here, and he's just super clear with what he wants to do. He's not getting away from what football is. He's been very obvious with that with just technique and everything. He's going to bring his twist to things, but he told us that he's not going to come in and mess us all up.” 

As the first 2023 offensive lineman on campus, Pendleton has taken a leadership role within the other offensive line signees. Pendleton has made sure to keep his future teammates in the loop, but also keep them motivated for their arrival in June. 

“I was the first guy to commit. I'm the first guy here, so I definitely take a lead role on that,” Pendleton stated. “Sullivan Absher, being from the same state about an hour away from each other, has reached out quite a bit. Other guys have reached out as well, too. We have a group chat. We talk on the regular. I consider those guys brothers now. We're going to live together. We're going to work together, we're going to be together and I have complete clarity with them from the hard through the easy.” 

And when it comes to his transition outside of football, Pendleton has found comfort in his schedule and is settling into college life.

“The transition was big and especially being far away from home into something that's brand new to me by myself,” said Pendleton. “I've really enjoyed it. It's been tough those first two weeks going to classes, trying to figure out your schedule and getting that routine. Everyone talks about the routine being the hardest part of college. I think once you find that routine, it gets a little bit easier.”

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