Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Exceed Sports Performance Meeting, Exceeding Expectations

June 27, 2019

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. – After spending several years in Chicago around NFL players, Sean Smith realized there were plenty of similar-looking guys back home in Massachusetts who just hadn’t been given the same opportunities.

So, when Smith went back home, he knew there was an opportunity to give young players those opportunities.

“I think there’s always been great talent in Massachusetts, it’s just no one knew about it,”
says Smith.

When Smith returned to Massachusetts in 2013, he joined Exceed Sports Performance & Fitness in Westborough, Mass., with Shane Davenport, who opened the business back in 2012.

“We came into Central Mass. at the right time,” he said. “Athletes hadn’t really been training up to this level. We shared our knowledge and history.”

“Exceed has transformed my game ever since I came here...It’s a big part of the reason why I am in the position I’m in right now.”
- Jay Brunelle

After playing college football at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., Smith spent about six years working with OTG Sports Management in the Chicago area. At the same time, he helped train his brother, Brendan, who was a four-year starting safety and two-time captain at Northwestern and some of his teammates in the early-2000s.

“I knew the caliber of athlete that played in the NFL,” says Smith. “I’ve worked with them, I know them. I helped train my brother through his junior and senior year and a lot of other guys at the time. So, when I come out here and see guys, I can project pretty easy who has a good chance.

“Shane and I are from athletic sports families in Massachusetts. We know there’s always been talent, just to see it come from any part of the state is great. We wanted to put our footprint down and help those guys get to the NFL.”

But before they can get to the NFL, they need to get to college and Smith and Davenport know these days, that means preparing and excelling at regional and national camps.

“That’s what we do here, we help them and help highlight their attributes to get them there as well,” says Smith.

Smith isn’t the only one who recognized Massachusetts as an underrecruited area, pointing to the time spent in the state by current Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, who coached at Boston College, UMass and Northeastern.

“He knows there’s talent in Massachusetts,” Smith says. “He just validates the state and when that validation comes, other eyes come.”

Exceed counts dozens of top high school, college and potential pro prospects as clients.

It’s not just football either.

Current Notre Dame hockey stars Cam and Cal Burke are clients at Exceed as is current Irish basketball player Chris Doherty.

Exceed is also the training facility of choice for 2021 Notre Dame offensive line commit Greg Crippen‍ when he’s back home from IMG Academy.

2021 Notre Dame OL commit Greg Crippen

On Wednesday, Exceed added another client to the Notre Dame column when 2020 Massachusetts wide receiver Jay Brunelle‍ announced his commitment to the Irish.

Brunelle credited Smith, Davenport and Exceed with helping him get to the major Power-Five level.

“Exceed has transformed my game ever since I came here two years ago,” Brunelle says. “It’s a big part of the reason why I am in the position I’m in right now. They prepared me for every single camp. They prepared me for every single game. I practically live in this place.”

Brunelle spent five hours at the gym on Tuesday and said he’s even caught some sleep at the place before.

“This is my place,” he continues. “This is the mecca of Massachusetts training. It’s only going to blow up from here. If you want to be a great athlete and also be around some great people, come to Exceed Sports Performance in Westborough, Massachusetts.”

2022 linebacker Tyler Martin‍ already had major offers from schools like Michigan, Nebraska and Syracuse among others by the time he started with Exceed a couple months ago, but described the immediate progress he’s seen as “unbelievable.”

“This environment is second to none,” Martin says. “Personally, my strength and quickness and things like that, I’ve already seen massive gains in the short two months, especially in my main lifts, squat, bench and cleans. I used to never be a good cleaner and now it’s my favorite lift.

“Sean and Shane are huge in development. They don’t care about how much you’re lifting as long it’s the correct way, which is all I’ve wanted in a trainer. Also, their speed work is amazing, even the warmup stuff.”

Martin says he’s incorporated Exceed’s warmup routine to his own.

2022 LB Tyler Martin

Smith pushes the credit back toward the kids.

“Not many guys work harder than him, period,” he says of Brunelle. “He puts all of the work in and he’s going to produce. He’s a great kid, a respectful young man who works his ass off.”

As for Crippen, he says it’s the “same.”

“Greg won’t say much,” Smith continues. “You’ll get very few words from Greg, but he works hard and is technically sound. He’s a guy you could project right to the NFL, but he’s still young. He’s got two more years of high school.”

And “same” for Martin as well, according to Smith.

“Hard workers, love football. They’re what you want,” he says.

And “they’re” what Smith thinks he’ll be getting down the road as well.

“I think Central Mass. is just getting started…There’s a lot of talent here, there really is. There are plenty of athletes here.”

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