Quarterback Everett Golson said the adversity of abruptly losing four teammates while Notre Dame investigates whether they were involved in academic dishonesty is bringing the Fighting Irish together.
"I guess I can go back to my instance, where you really see who your true friends are," said Golson, who was suspended from school last fall for academic impropriety. "You see your true brotherhood through adversity. I think we've definitely come together.
"I think we've done a great job of dealing with adversity and know everybody on the outside is going to talk. But we can only control what we can control and that's the mindset of our team. I think we've done a great job with that," he said.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith echoed that sentiments.
"We're a family here. We've just got to bond together," he said.
Most of the other members of the 17th-ranked Fighting Irish who spoke during Tuesday's media day wouldn't comment about how the team was reacting to the losses of starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell, leading returning receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive end Ishaq Williams and backup linebacker Kendall Moore. School officials have said they don't know how long the investigation will take.
Golson wouldn't talk specifically about the four players involved, saying he didn't know enough about what occurred, but he talked about what he went through when he was suspended and how embarrassing it was.
"It hurt. I felt I had to feel the full brunt of that to self-evaluate myself and correct my mistakes. Be a better person. Be a better leader," he said.
Golson said he appreciates more what it means to play football at Notre Dame the second time around.
"I've been hit with it, so you have a better appreciation of the university," he said.
Golson and other Irish players said they know the classes at Notre Dame are harder than at most other schools. Golson said that's one of the reasons he wanted to return.
"Being a student-athlete here is definitely not easy," he said. "But it's manageable and possible to be done. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I think you'll grow through it."
Defensive back Matthias Farley said Irish players know the academic challenges when they commit to Notre Dame, saying each player meets with the admission director and academics is stressed. He said at other schools "people just talk about football, football, football." Farley said it was different at Notre Dame.
"They really took a real interest in you, how you performed in the classroom, not just your senior or junior year. But things you could improve on, things they would like to see you improve on, if you're lacking in an area," he said. "So they really take a look at you as a student, not just as a student-athlete."
Golson said neither his teammates nor his classmates have ever asked him about what he did that led to his suspension.
"I think it says something about this university and the people of this university. I think they forgive a little bit. It's definitely a forgiving spirit. They understand, 'I'm not going to ridicule you because you messed up in the past.' It's more the type of thing, 'OK, you're back now. We forgive you."
NOTES: Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock disclosed Tuesday the reason he missed some practices earlier this month was because he underwent surgery for prostate cancer. He said all the reports he's received have been positive. He said he couldn't comment on how much he's been working "because my wife and my doctor will probably hunt me down." ... Defensive backs graduate assistant Kyle McMcCarthy, who has undergone four chemotherapy treatments for an undisclosed cancer, was at practice Tuesday. Kelly announced last week that McCarthy will take intermittent leaves of absence while undergoing treatment.