National Signing Day can be a hectic time for many high school seniors as friends, family and media surround them, competing for time and attention.
For Stephon Tuitt, his big day was spent doing what he loves most – playing football.
Before Tuitt burst onto the national stage as an All-America defensive tackle for Notre Dame Tuitt signed his letter of intent in 2011, hugged his family and politely answered questions from national media assembled in Austin, Texas, as part of that year’s International Bowl festivities.
As imposing a figure as Tuitt is on the football field, he is quiet, steady and reserved off of it. It would seem difficult for a 6-foot-6, 303-pound man to not dominate a room.
Tuitt does just that, offering polite a “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” to questions about himself.
He lets his play on the field do the talking.
Tuitt started all 13 games for Notre Dame this past season, including the 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. With a team-high 12 sacks and 47 tackles overall, Tuitt is part of a Fighting Irish defensive front that lets the team’s linebackers and secondary run free to make plays.
He has forced three fumbles, returning one 77 yards for a touchdown. His play earned him first-team All-America honors from ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
“He has embraced his role … against the run and also able to rush the passer,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of Tuitt. “He’s only going to continue to get better as we move forward. We saw a guy really maturing and developing.”
Kelly said Tuitt – who carries a 3.5 grade-point average – worked hard this past offseason to get ready for his first season as a starter.
A high school safety and defensive end, Tuitt ran with defensive backs during training camp. He’s always possessed the raw skills, but his time in college has helped him flourish.
“He’s been on a mission, and it’s not just football,” Kelly said. “It’s everything in his life. It’s his film study, taking notes. I think he’s a very, very driven young man.”