The Notre Dame football team hit the bowling lanes with Irish fans Sunday morning at Strikes and Spares in Mishawaka, all for a great cause.
The Irish have started a chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which raises money to fight rare diseases. Sunday's bowling was the team's first event.
It was an intimate setting where about 20 Notre Dame football players bowled with fans who made a $100 donation.
A number of the team's newest stars were enjoying the day, including freshmen Torii Hunter Jr, Max Redfield and Jaylon Smith. In what Irish fans hope is a sign of things to come, Smith--a 5-star linebacker from Fort Wayne--always seemed to shine brighter when the camera was on him.
"This one's a strike," Smith said with a big smile to our NewsCenter 16 cameras as he made true to his promise by bowling a strike.
"Go Irish!" he declared.
Irish safety Matthias Farley didn't fair so well but he had perspective.
"Bowling well is relative," Farley explained. "I personally think I'm pretty good at bowling. I'm sitting at a 55, halfway done--so I'm going to break a 100. Which is about the same as when I play golf."
Irish fans enjoyed their time of 1-on-1 interaction with the players. 14-year-old Nate Mark of Granger was bowling with tight end Troy Niklas and freshman walk-on Jesse Bongiovi (son of rock legend Jon Bon Jovi.)
As NewsCenter 16 prepared to interview Nate, Niklas came up to him and instructed him on what to say.
"It's been my dream to bowl with Jesse Bongiovi and Troy Niklas since day one," Nate said with a big smile and a thumbs up.
No way he was going against the suggestions of the 6'7" 260 pound Niklas.
"I didn't tell him to say a thing," Niklas said with a big smile.
And Sunday's event meant a lot to guys like Niklas. The funds raised from the bowling event go towards fight osteosarcoma. That's the disease Middlebury teenager Sam Grewe just defeated in February.
Sam was adopted by the Irish football team last season and even traveled with the team to the national title game in January while continuing to battle cancer. Sam was unable to attend Sunday because he was on a family vacation but he's the main reason all these football players were out bowling.
"Sometimes we look to him for inspiration," Niklas says. "That's just an incredible thing to get through physically and emotionally. A lot of us look at him as an idol in a way because he's so mentally strong."
The event raised more than $2,000 for the Irish chapter of Uplifting Athletes, a positive first step.
"I'm really excited," chapter President and Irish linebacker Joe Schmidt said with a smile. "We raised a good amount of money, even before the first ball was bowled. It's an exciting event. We're all having a good time and this has been fun."
Schmidt, who says he hadn't bowled since he was 12, proved to pretty decent--scoring a 127.