Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 32 of 55 AUGUST 2021 33 playing defensive back in a blue and gold uniform. Lea saw serious po- tential for the 6-2½, 207-pounder to succeed on the other side of the ball. So did one of Stefanelli's top as- sistants. The prep coach won't ever forget that interaction, either. Hart was a quarterback in youth football. When he arrived at Good Counsel, he was told immediately he wouldn't play that position there. The coaching staff saw him as more of a playmaker in space. Someone who could beat opposing defenses with the ball in his hands. That sentiment wasn't shared by the entire coaching staff. Good Coun- sel defensive backs coach Josh Pleas- ant viewed Hart as the exact oppo- site. Not someone who was a threat to enter the end zone every time he touched the ball. Rather, someone who could prevent the opposition from doing so every time his team was on defense. "You know what, he could be the best corner we have," Stefanelli re- c a l l e d P l e a s a n t telling him. Lea saw it. Pleas- ant saw it. And now Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens see it, too. The first start of Hart's Notre Dame career could come at corner Sept. 5 at Florida State. Pleasant, of course, isn't surprised in the slightest. "With his skill set, his attention to detail and his size, I just knew from the day that I met him that he was go- ing to be a cornerback," Pleasant said. "He is a cornerback by the definition of the next generation of corners. He's long, twitchy, has great speed with a receiver-type skill set and can sink his hips in and out of breaks." 'IT WAS ALL CAM' Pleasant prognosticated Hart as a corner early in high school, but it still wasn't his full-time position until after an injury-shortened freshman season at Notre Dame in 2019. Hart played in three games that year before getting surgery on a torn labrum. It was a bum shoulder that might've inhibited Hart from being a true de- fensive back in high school, too. The same injury that reached the point of no return early in his freshman year in South Bend started while Hart was still at Good Counsel. It got to a point where playing defense was far more physically taxing than running routes and catching passes. "It did hamper some of his progress for a period there because it was so tender," Good Counsel secondary co- ordinator J.D. Noell said. "He's not the type of guy who would want to hold back. He'd beg and plead for us to keep him out there, but it got to a point where he could only do so much." Turning himself into the No. 11 player in the state of Maryland and the No. 58 receiver in the country ac- cording to Rivals wasn't a bad trade off for someone who wasn't 100 per- cent physically, though. Hart probably wouldn't be in a position to start at corner for Notre Dame if not for what he did as a wideout at Good Counsel. The instincts Hart showed as a wide receiver led coaches to believe he'd be a stout defensive back, too. In a game against Marietta (Ga.) High his senior season, Hart made a play Stefanelli — like the conversations he had with Lea and Pleasant — will remember forever. "The safety didn't bite like we thought he would, and Cam just natu- rally broke off the post and sat down in front of the safety," Stefanelli said. "The quarterback recognized that and threw a dart at him. Cam caught it and made an incredible spin move as the safety came in to make the tackle. He sprinted for a touchdown. We broke the game open and won a game we probably shouldn't have. "That play, it looked like a great play, but it was all Cam. The safety played it perfectly. It would not have been a touchdown for just about any- body else." Anticipating such decisions by wide receivers could be a difference-maker for Hart as a corner in college. Hav- ing played so much wideout can only help Hart now that his job is to lock down the type of player he once was. Stefanelli is not a proponent of the "specialization" of players. He's glad Hart played a mixture of receiver, corner and even some safety at Good Counsel. He believes the cross train- ing could be a big beneficial factor in Hart's development at Notre Dame. "We want them to get the reps and learn and train and practice both sides as much as possible," Stefanelli said. "For Cam, he knows how wide receiv- ers think having played the position. "I think that's a huge advantage when he goes to the defensive side. He understands routes. He understands route concepts. He's done it. He's been in those meetings. He knows what he's doing, and that's definitely a plus." THE LOOK The coaches at Good Counsel will remember Hart for much more than his position swap. "He's one of those kids you only get once or twice in a class," Noell said. "You can't help but want to see great things happen for him." "He's one of those kids you have on your team where you know he's a guy you can go to," Stefanelli added. "When I needed to know something about the team — an issue, a problem, a question — I would go to Cam. "'Cam, what's going on here?' He wasn't going to rat anybody out, but he would tell me the truth. He had a pulse of the team because he was good with anybody. He didn't hang out with just the stars on the team. He was as good of friends with number 48 on the roster as he was number three. He got to know them all." Pleasant called it a quiet confidence. But when Hart flipped the switch, Pleasant had never seen as drastic a change between the man someone was off the field versus what he was on it. Flipping the switch is exactly what Notre Dame is looking for from Hart this season. The position switch is over. It happened. It's official. It's in Hart's rearview mirror. Now it's time for him to make the most of it. If there's anyone who can, Pleasant said, it's Hart. "Cam has this look in his eyes, a re- fuse to lose type of look in his eyes," Pleasant said. "He switches over from nice, calm, collected Cam to this super intense, monster athlete that's confident and ready to do whatever it takes to win. "And when you're staring at 6-2½ with a wingspan like his, it's pretty crazy. Every time I think of Cam, I think of that look in his eyes. That look of, 'I'm a dog. I want to be the best. I'm go- ing to show you that I'm the best.'" ✦ "Cam has this look in his eyes, a refuse to lose type of look in his eyes. … Every time I think of Cam, I think of that look in his eyes. That look of, 'I'm a dog. I want to be the best. I'm going to show you that I'm the best.'" BALTIMORE GOOD COUNSEL DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH JOSH PLEASANT

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