Matthias Farley hasn't taken much of a break since committing to Notre Dame back in April.
Rather than spend his summer traveling to camps and combines, or perhaps joining a family vacation or two, Farley has been putting in work both in the weight room and on the practice field with his team at Charlotte Christian School.
That's a testament to not only the sting of losing in the state championship game last season but also knowing younger players are now looking to him as an example of how things should be done.
"I wanna lead by example and give it all I've got every play," said Farley, who opened fall camp earlier this week. "Don't take any breaks. I wanna lead the conference in picks. I wanna knock some people's heads off. I want to be a nightmare on both sides of the ball for coaches to think about leading up to the week we play them. I try to encourage everybody, the younger guys, try to step up and be a leader to everybody."
Farley has kept working for another reason as well. He's still got a lot to learn.
The 6-foot-2, 197-pound athlete is going into just his second year of organized football after spending most of his childhood on the soccer pitch. As a junior receiver, Farley made 37 catches for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Now he feels a bit more refined. With plans to play both receiver and cornerback ¬- Notre Dame projects him on defense - Farley believes he's made giant strides in a year's time.
"Definitely going to a school like Notre Dame I've still barely touched the surface of just the ins and outs and little stuff I can always improve on," Farley said. "But in the last year, my brother, Nathan, played at Coastal Carolina, he came and watched practice and he said, 'It's like night and day watching you.' It's encouraging."
Part of the reason Farley feels like he's made so much progress is the coaching he's received from the Charlotte Christian staff, which includes former NFL safety Eugene Robinson.
Robinson spent 15 years in the NFL with Seattle, Green Bay, Atlanta and Carolina before calling it a career. He went to the Pro Bowl three times and won Super Bowl XXXI with Green Bay in 1997.
When it comes to the finer points of playing in the secondary, Farley has learned a lot from a former All-Pro free safety.
"It's awesome," Farley said. "Like, who gets that? You're playing high school football and the guy has been to the Pro Bowl several times and won a Super Bowl. He knows everything you could possibly know about playing in the secondary and he's just there to help you out. It's been a huge asset because if you do something and he says, 'Do it this way,' and you do it that way you're golden. Coach Rob knows everything there is to know. Just tiny things. Things that you don't even think would make that big of a difference but they do."
Farley hopes to apply those lessons at Notre Dame, but also when his senior season kicks off on Aug. 20. Outside expectations aren't high because the team lost three Division I signees on defense in linebacker Kelby Brown (Duke), linebacker Ty Lington (North Carolina) and defensive end David Durham (Ohio State).
For his part, Farley believes a little drop in talent could lead to a more cohesive unit.
"Last year we had some great linebackers and great defensive linemen and secondary guys so we almost used it as a crutch I think," Farley said. "Now that that crutch is gone we're all coming together and working more as a team I'd say instead of relying on the big players to make big plays."