Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt said before the season started that he wanted to be an impact player in his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-6, 303-pounder certainly started on the right foot in last Saturday's 50-10 victory over Navy in Dublin, Ireland.
Tuitt had four tackles, two for loss, and returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown against the Midshipmen. Tuitt's fumble return was the third longest in school history and the longest since Steve Lawrence had a 79-yard return in 1985.
Coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that Tuitt's desire to improve on his freshman performance, when he had 30 tackles, three for loss and two sacks, goes beyond football.
"The only word I remember him using was dominate," Kelly said of what Tuitt talked about doing in the offseason. "Dominate in the classroom, which he did. This summer over three, I think it was a 3.5 (GPA). Everything he did, he wanted to be the very best.
"When we ran 3:50s, which is some of our summer workouts, each group works individually by their position group and each one has a separate time. As you can imagine, the (offensive line) are a higher time than maybe the (defensive backs). Stephon was running with the DBs.
"He's been on this mission of, whatever it is and it's not just football, it's everything in his life. It's film study. Last night, he's in there film studying, taking notes, and I think just a very, very driven young man right now."
Kelly said Tuitt was raw when he came to Notre Dame last year and the defensive end didn't know what he was capable of doing.
But because Tuitt has been able to settle in at Notre Dame, the coach expects great things from him.
"I think a lot of that has to do with confidence in being here for a year and seeing how he could excel, not only on the football field but at Notre Dame and in the classroom," Kelly said. "And then once you see that, and sense it and feel it, then that fire is lit. And the fire is lit with him to dominate and be the best at everything he does."