Most of the athletes (all sports) I got to know lived near me in the dorm. Then, when I would see them around they would introduce me to whoever they were hanging out with. In that way you get to meet a bunch of the athletes. And it's not always about the stars either. It was always great to see one of your dormmates who worked hard on the scout team to get in during a blowout. It was always a big moment for him and a big moment for us to scream about in the stadium. You might recognize many of the names of guys I got to meet and know, but many others are now doctors, lawyers, salesmen, accountants, etc.
One of the guys next door to me commented that he was so glad that ND didn't have athlete dorms because he needed to be able to get away from football every now and then. He also liked that he got to learn about other opportunities in life after he was done with football. The last I heard from him, he was working in a large accounting firm.
However, for the most part, many of their closest friendships were with the guys on the team, as you might expect if you ever experienced high school sports, but those weren't their only friendships or interactions.