the football players at ND are more "integrated" with the non-athlete students than at other schools I've attended. Residentiality (still don't particularly like that term given its Monkian reminder) is a big part of it, as is the smaller student body and the choice of majors that one can pursue at ND (vs., say, at Cal or Michigan...only chose those schools because of my own experience and onservations).
At Cal and Michigan, the teams themselves seem to serve as the way to "personalize" the school for the athlete, whereas at ND, there's a more intimate nature to the community as a whole. Also, at Cal and Michigan, the preponderance of ethnic studies and kinesiology majors, respectively, means that the athletes are more likely to be taking classes with a cohort of fellow athletes. I don't particularly care about that, but it does mean that the football players can sort of "hang with their own" even when in the classroom setting.