A singular focus

If Fremd senior offensive lineman Christian Lombard doesn't end up in the NFL, his high school coach, Michael Donatucci, believes he could pen a self-help guide.

"He should write a book on how to handle the recruiting process," Donatucci said.

Lombard's recruiting story is the opposite of most you hear these days. From the start, Lombard knew what he wanted -- high-end academics along with a solid football program. He also decided early he was going to end his recruitment early. He wasn't going to prolong it for extra attention. When he found his criteria in Notre Dame, Lombard ceased his recruiting in January 2009 and committed. He also didn't need to put "strong" or "soft" beside his verbal. Once he decided on Notre Dame, he was going to Notre Dame. End of story.

Even when turmoil hit the Fighting Irish program after this past season, and Charlie Weis was fired and Brian Kelly was hired, Lombard never flinched. He was going to Notre Dame no matter what.

"The biggest thing for me was the university is the permanent part," Lombard said. "You got to look at it as the coach may get fired in the next year even if you've signed the letter of intent. That's a big thing. I've learned over time the school is always going to be there."

Donatucci was impressed from start to finish.

"It was well-thought out," Donatucci said. "He knew the toll the recruiting process was taking on him. He knew early on he didn't want it to interfere with his senior year. He knew what he wanted academically. Aside from his football accomplishments, I'm really thankful for how he handled the whole process. It could have been a major distraction for a team sport. He made sure that didn't happen."

Instead, Lombard was able to focus on his senior season. Fremd needed that focus, too, as the team's success depended on him. From day one, the Vikings' plan was to run, run and run some more. For that to work, Lombard needed to block, block and block some more.

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With Lombard paying more attention to the little details of blocking and showing improved footwork from his junior season, he lived up to the expectations of being a Notre Dame recruit. Behind him and the rest of Fremd's offensive line, the Vikings rushed for more than 2,500 yards on the season and went undefeated during the regular season.

"As an offensive line, there were no secret -- we were going to run, and we were going to run behind him," Donatucci said. "It took 12 games before someone was able to stop us. He was much more aggressive, more confident. I think he was able to put it all together."

Lombard said, "It was a true testament to our offensive line and [running back] Evan [Wright]. That was one of the best offensive lines we've had in Fremd history. Teams knew our game plan, and we shoved it down their throat. 'Try [and] stop us,' we said."

Lombard was out to win this season, but he also sought to prove people wrong. Although he has been ranked among the nation's top offensive linemen for some time, he read that some people questioned his ability.

"There's always doubters," Lombard said. "There's always guys who want to bring you down. You got to do what you can. You can't do anything other than show them what you can do. When the going got tough, I always had that thought in my mind. That was motivation, a driving factor for me."

Despite having an all-state high school season and silencing those local critics, Lombard still felt he had something to prove when he played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl against national competition in San Antonio in January. There, he was out to show himself he could play with the big boys.

Following a week of practices and the game, Lombard received positive reviews from scouts and accomplished what he set out to. It also encouraged him that the NFL is a realistic goal.

"That was definitely a confidence booster," Lombard said. "I did hold my own out there. I proved to myself I belong with the elite. It was great to see all those athletes that will someday be in the league.

"I think about the NFL every day. That's my No. 1 dream, to play in the league someday. You have to have that passion and desire to go all that way. I think that's something I have."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at preps@espnchicago.com.