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The observer | friday, November 22, 2019 |

ian book | qb | el dorado hills, california

DIANE PARK | The Observer


To some, Ian Book’s ascent into one of the highest positions in college athletics might have seemed out of the blue. But to those who know Book closely, his focus and drive over the last four years have simply led him to where he is today. Very few predicted Notre Dame would be led to their first College Football Playoff behind the leadership of Book, but when the senior quarterback got the starting nod against Wake Forest last season, he took the opportunity and never looked back. “My expectations coming here were to be the starter and just work hard, and I never knew when exactly that would be,” Book said. “[Coming] here and I was fifth string, there were … four really good quarterbacks in front of me. So I just said I’m going to have to put my head down and work hard eventually live out my dream.” According to Book, that dream was always to earn a starting spot as a quarterback at a Division I program. Beyond that, he said he didn’t have a time limit on it, and was simply grateful things worked out for him. However, he almost pursued that dream across the country, a little closer to home. A three-star quarterback out of Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, California, Book was moderately recruited by a number of mid-tier programs, including Boise State. When then-quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford Jr. left the Broncos to become the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame in 2015, Book

returned to the drawing board. “When he came to Notre Dame, I didn’t really have much time to wait around for anything as a quarterback, because you want to be first in the class committed,” Book said. “I ended up fulfilling my dream to play in the Pac-12 and stay on the west coast where I’m from, so I decided to commit to Washington State.” After committing to the Cougars in April of his junior season, Book got a call from Sanford and ended up switching his commitment by August. “I took a visit and once I found out what everything Notre Dame is about in terms of academics and football … I think I switched in like three days,” he said. While the allure of playing quarterback at Notre Dame is certainly enticing, it doesn’t come without its sacrifices. For Book, it meant playing over 2,000 miles away from home, with the lone Stanford or USC matchup making its way back to California once a year over Thanksgiving. But Book credited his family for all the effort they put in to support him from so far away. “My parents and my whole entire family does an awesome job,” Book said. “They made every single game — home and away — so I get to see them a lot.” Furthermore, the move to South Bend sent Book back down the playing-calling chart, as he found himself the fifth-string quarterback his freshman year. That same year, the team went 4-8, six of those losses coming by a touchdown or less, and posted the program’s worst record in over a decade.

While Book did not see the field that season, he continued to adjust to the speed of the game on the collegiate level and was prepared when he was named the backup quarterback his sophomore season. He went on to appear in 10 different matchups, starting with the marquee game against Georgia on Sept. 9, 2017 at home, a moment Book describes as the “most nervous he’s ever been.” “My first snap was against Georgia, and it was a quarterback draw,” Book said. “… I couldn’t feel my whole entire body. I’ve been able to adapt to that a little bit.” He continued to prove himself a solid option throughout the 2017 season, stepping in for former Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush against North Carolina when the starter was ruled out due to an injury. However, Book’s first big break came at the end of the season, at the Citrus Bowl against LSU. Wimbush was struggling to connect in the first half and was ultimately benched in the second quarter. Book stepped in and threw 164 yards and two touchdowns — including a perfectlyplaced over-the-shoulder pass to former wide receiver Miles Boykin, who secured it with one hand — en route to Notre Dame’s 21-17 victory. That moment under the spotlight helped prepare Book for what was still left to come. Despite getting off to a 3-0 start in 2018, the Notre Dame offense was relatively stagnant and Wimbush was struggling to produce down the stretch in games. In their first road game, Book was

announced the starter. He led No. 8 Notre Dame to a 56-27 routing of Wake Forest, throwing for 325 yards and rushing for three touchdowns. From that point on, despite the occasional glimpse of Wimbush returning to the lineup, Book secured the starting position and led them to an undefeated regular season. “I felt ready,” Book said of his mentality heading into the Wake Forest game. “I’ve been preparing every day like on the starter, and that’s hard sometimes when you’re not getting the first-team reps, but just always telling yourself you’ve got to be ready for when that opportunity happens. And there’s no better time for that than Wake Forest. I felt ready. And, you know, I wanted the coaches to believe in me and just had to prepare every single day like I was going to start.” Playing for a program that’s not unfamiliar to “quarterback controversy,” as it’s often called, Book has navigated that system, distinguishing himself from his peers and most recently earning the honor of being named one of seven captains, something he described a major goal of his heading into the offseason. When asked who has had the greatest influence on his experience at Notre Dame, Book had one answer: former Irish quarterback and current Irish quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees. “[Coach Rees has] been there for me on and off the field as one of my best friends, and once it’s business time, he can flip that switch and be someone I look up to,” Book said. “He’s taught me so

much.” Beyond his role in building up Book’s leadership style, Rees has been formative in evolving Book’s game and confidence on the field. “[He’s done a] great job of getting me ready and just really understanding the full game of football; understanding defensive recognition was probably the biggest thing,” Book said. “Coming out of high school, I knew some things, but it’s just so next level in college and even next level in the NFL, and he’s done a great job of really simplifying that and helping me learn.” With two games left in the regular season, and only one game in Notre Dame Stadium, Book acknowledged how quickly his time at Notre Dame has gone. “I cannot believe I’m a senior — and it’s not just me,” Book said. “You want to play so hard for all the other seniors, their last time here in the stadium.” That said, he’s not letting nostalgia get in the way of anything. Instead, he’s using that experience to inspire his game come Saturday. “Time flies so so fast here and they always say, ‘Oh, you remember senior night when you win,’ so that is the biggest goal is to go out there and get a W,” Book said. “… It’s hard to win in November. And we’ve been saying that a lot as a team. So just keep winning out in November is my biggest goal and especially this week coming up is play hard for the seniors and get a win on senior night. And then the rest will take care of itself.” Contact Charlotte Edmonds at

insider | friday, November 22, 2019 | The Observer


chase claypool | wr | abbotsford, british columbia

DIANE PARK | The Observer


Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Sept. 27 edition of The Observer. Chase Claypool has been part of a Notre Dame football class that has had a unique run. Their freshman year was a 4-8 disaster that saw both coordinators get fired and Brian Kelly pushed to the brink of his job. In the two years since, the team has been in constant College Football Playoff contention, reaching the promised land last season before being blown out in the Cotton Bowl against Clemson. Claypool has been a constant in all of this, progressing each year and improving his play just like the program has. Playing across from Miles Boykin, he caught 639 yards last season, a mark he looks poised to smash this season with 256 yards through just three games. Claypool gave credit to some graduated players for mentoring him early in his career and showing him the path to being an impactful wide receiver. “[Former Irish wide receiver] Corey Robinson was the main guy who stuck out,” Claypool said. “He was a medical redshirt when I was a freshman. He taught me the playbook and told me how important it is to do each thing right and learn all of the plays, while having a good attitude about everything. [Former Irish wide

receiver] Miles Boykin now is keeping touch with me even though he is in the NFL. Those two guys have been pretty good leaders.” Now that he is a senior as those two once were, Claypool said he has a different perspective on the program than he once did. “I understand that everything means a little more. Everything meant the same in prior years, but now it’s kind of a realization that this is my last year and every little thing counts,” Claypool said. “I’m just trying to take that [as a] factor and let the guys know that every little thing we do on the practice field is going to translate to the game field.” Over his four years, Claypool has heard the criticism of Notre Dame football that has occurred in the media, especially after games like Miami in 2017 and Clemson last year. When discussing how many members of the media dismissed the Irish as having no chance against Georgia, he acknowledged people are hung up on the Clemson game but said the team has learned from its experiences. “I wasn’t surprised — I think a lot of people were hung up on the game against Clemson, and maybe the game against Louisville,” Claypool said. “I knew what we were all about, just based on the practices here. I think we’re going to be able to carry that momentum [from Georgia] throughout the year. We have a different type of urgency. We can’t start slow, we can’t give up any big plays.

We really tightened down on the little things.” As the team seeks to build on its game against Georgia, Claypool and the offense are receiving much needed reinforcements. Junior tight end Cole Kmet had a dominant return in Athens, and the team is expecting junior wide receiver Michael Young and sophomore running back Jahmir Smith to be healthy against Virginia. Claypool is enthusiastic about what these returning players can do for both the offense and his own game. “All the pieces are coming together, it’s kind of exciting,” Claypool said. “Once everyone comes back, which is pretty soon, it opens up avenues we have not explored yet. Now that Mike is back and Cole is back at tight end, it adds versatility to our offense. That only helps me out and everybody on the field out.” That versatility will be needed as the team faces three ranked teams in Virginia, USC and Michigan in their next four games. It is often a challenge for teams to come down off playing an emotional game like Georgia and coming up short. After the loss to Miami in 2017, the Irish slumped through their remaining schedule before their bowl game, beating Navy by seven in a game they were favored to win by 20, and losing their final game at Stanford, eliminating themselves from New Year’s Six bowl contention. Claypool said there will be no such letdown this year, as the team respects what

Virginia has and is prepared to compete. “We’re pretty aware of Virginia’s talent on defense,” he said. “Looking from my perspective, they are going to come into this game flying around, especially because they’re undefeated and ranked. It’s a game they can use to prove themselves, just as it was for us against Georgia. We are expecting some high energy from that team, we’re going to match up for sure.” The Virginia game is the next piece of what will come

together as Claypool’s final season. He hopes this season will help his class leave a standard of excellence behind as an aspiration for future Notre Dame football players. “The standard of playing — most of all being fast and physical — I think that has to be an identity that Notre Dame receivers carry on through the next few years,” he said. “If I can leave that legacy it would be pretty cool.” Contact Jack Concannon at

ann CURTIS | The Observer

Irish senior wide receiver Chase Claypool is tackled in the end zone during Notre Dame’s 23-17 road loss over Georgia on Saturday.



The observer | friday, November 22, 2019 |


DIANE PARK | The Observer


Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Sept. 2 edition of The Observer. Just one summer ago, the Irish were coming off a near playoff season. After a debilitating loss to Miami at Hard Rock Stadium in November 2017 that squashed their playoff hopes, Notre Dame entered the 2019 season prepared to make a statement. And in the coming months, they certainly did. After an undefeated season which featured wins over five nationally ranked teams, the Irish fell to No. 2 and eventual national champion Clemson 30-3 at AT&T Stadium in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. The Irish had taken a step up, but they had fallen just short of a monumental comeback, and the quest for a national championship in the modern college football era remains elusive. But the Irish are poised for yet another comeback, and who better to serve as an emblem of such a comeback than graduate student cornerback Shaun Crawford? Crawford, who has seen only minimal action for the Irish, was rated the sixth cornerback nationally on’s 250 list coming out of high school. He was the 13th-ranked athlete on ESPN’s 300 list after his senior

year of high school. He was a clear sensation at cornerback. And yet, every year, it seemed as if happenstance injuries plagued his potential. In his freshman year, he suffered a torn ACL that resulted in season-ending knee surgery. In his sophomore year, he started the first two games but tore his Achilles during Notre Dame’s win over Nevada in week two. And last year, heading into his senior year, Crawford suffered a knee injury before the first game of the year. And yet, after a near-victorious season, Crawford is back and unfazed by his past. His drive to carry Notre Dame’s defense, and the Irish as a whole, to a successful season is emblematic of a hungry team that’s determined to reach higher despite losing a number of payers to the 2019 NFL Draft. “When the injury happened, [head coach Brian Kelly] gave me time to just think about it and just talk to my family,” Crawford said. “Just who I am, [quitting football] just never came to mind, just giving up. … It never crossed my mind just to give up what I’ve been working for my entire life. “My family has always been behind me, my teammates have always been behind me … and so we just decided to attack [the injury] and look at it as just another thing I could get over. We’ve been through

it before, so we know that it wasn’t the end of the world, it was just going to be another bump in the road. It’s something that we had to do. It’s something that we just had to take advantage of and just get with the strength staff and the nutritionist.” Much of Crawford’s will to trudge on is a result of his relationship with the Notre Dame football coaching staff. And that relationship seems a twoway street — especially considering Crawford was named a starting cornerback for Monday night’s game against Louisville, to the surprise of many. Crawford spoke about the staff’s confidence in him after all of these years. “I talk to the coaching staff pretty much every day, just about how I’m feeling,” he said. “At camp, we communicated that this was going to be a competition between me and a few other guys. And so … I didn’t take anything for granted. I came in each and every day, tried to prepare my body as much as I could just to perform at the highest level that I could. With that, the coaches felt that I was prepared to take the starting role. … Each guy behind me is very capable of being a starter. And so I’m just thankful that they named me starter, and I’ll take that and just keep going to work every day like I have.” Heading into camp this summer, coming off the third

major injury in his Notre Dame career, Crawford said his main focus was to remain confident and trust himself. “Going into camp, [I wanted to] remain confident and trust the work that I put in,” he said. “And I felt like everything other than that was just going to play out,” he said. “Trying to just stay focused on the moment and not thinking about days ahead or weeks ahead. Especially just with injuries and my past, I just try to take it one day at a time, one rep at a time, and then just trust the commitment that I’ve put in with the training staff. And [I] just believe that it’s my time, and I’m meant to be here. With that being said, my main goals are just to show up each and every day ready to work, just try to remain healthy — do the things that I can to remain healthy — and then just to be a pivotal piece for this team, and just to play hard, really.” Nevertheless, Crawford doesn’t look at all of last year in a negative light. Despite being sidelined during the College Football Playoff, he said he benefited from being able to work with the coaches and being alongside his teammates from the sideline. “I think last year helped me personally, because I was able to help coach the guys up and just be around a winning football team,” he said. “And so being able to see that is just going to help me carry this

on with a new group of guys. And they’ve been there before, so they’re going to help me as well, and seeing what it’s like to go 12-0, and what it’s like to play in the College [Football] Playoff. I was there watching it, but those guys are going to help me along, to just actually guide me along the way. Like I said, we had a great season last year. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, so we’re just going to keep going each and every day and just build off of last season.” Heading into this season, Crawford feels his own personal quest for a successful season is inherently tied to the team’s success as a whole, and said he looks forward to the team’s units working in tandem. “I feel like everything ties together,” he said. “For me to succeed this year, we’re going to need great pressure from our defensive line, our linebackers to just fill the right holes, and then just for us as a whole, the defensive backs, to just communicate. … The offense — when they have long drives, it helps us on defense, and just things like that. The defense is going to help the offense, the offense is going to help us. So, I think it all ties together. What we’re just trying to do is win a national championship.” Contact Connor Mulvena at

Sports Insider | friday, November 22, 2019 | The Observer


Jalen Elliott | S | richmond, virginia

DIANE PARK | The Observer


Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Nov. 1 edition of The Observer. Notre Dame has always been about so much more than football for Jalen Elliott. The senior safety from Richmond, Virginia, Elliott has emerged as a leader in the program and an anchor among one of the elite secondary units in the country. That leadership earned him the honor of being named one of seven captains this past August, a title he shares with fellow senior safety Alohi Gilman. In some ways, Elliott seems born for this position, but to him it’s just business as usual. “I was extremely honored — extremely honored — but also knew that [being named a captain] meant my team was really looking at me to step up and be that leader it needed me to be,” Elliott said. “So it was important for me to keep working and continue to be the person I was that got me to that point.” Elliott’s hardworking attitude began well before his time in South Bend. As a standout star at Lloyd C. Bird High School, Elliott proved to be one of the most versatile athletes in the class of

2016, playing a number of different positions including quarterback, wide receiver and eventually, of course, safety. W hile he had some experience on the defensive side of the ball, Elliott said the transition to playing at the speed of the NCA A when he was still adjusting to the position proved challenging. However, he was able to convert some of the skills he developed as a play caller to become a key presence on the field. “It took a lot of practice and a lot of work. I was very raw coming in,” Elliott said. “I played quarterback in high school so it was a little different, but a lot of the same tools I used vocally playing quarterback I use playing safety, so it was just about learning the technique and making sure that I was in the right spots for my team.” He took quickly to those adjustments as he earned himself a spot in the rotation in his freshman season, appearing in all 12 games. As the team struggled to find their momentum, eventually posting a 4-8 record on the season, Elliott was part of the coalition of freshmen defenders — headlined by current New York Giants player Julian Love — that started to find their groove down the final stretch of the season.

W hile that first season had its fair share of challenges, Elliott said it also came with some incredible learning experiences, particularly pointing to the 47-50 doubleovertime season-opening loss to the University of Texas in Austin. “It was an unbelievable game,” he said. “You know, it was my first one, and the first taste of college football and just how it would go — it was just amazing to realize that I was here and how much work I had to go.” Elliott chose the Irish over fellow powerhouse programs such as Auburn, Georgia and Miami (Florida). He credited the family environment head coach Brian Kelly and his staff worked to create as being one of the major reasons he picked Notre Dame. “It was big to me that there was a family aspect wherever I went, and I felt like Notre Dame embodied that,” Elliott said. “W hen my family came out here, they treated them like they were part of their family, so that really stuck out, and that was one of the main reasons that I chose to come here.” That decision paid off, as Elliott said he found a whole community of teammates that have impacted him as a player and leader. One he

said stood out among the rest is two-time captain and linebacker Drue Tranquill. Tranquill, who graduated this past year, was known to help mold leaders and integrate underclassmen in the program. “He was … the first person to really sit down and talk with me and say that I could be somebody that the team looks to to lead,” Elliott said. “Having him in my corner and having him give me those couple insights was really huge for me.” The encouragement of Tranquill and other respected members of the team helped build Elliott’s confidence within a team that was still discovering its identity. After that 4-8 season, the Irish bounced back to finish 10-3 in 2017, capped off with a 21-17 win over LSU at the Citrus Bowl. The improvements in that season were largely due to that defensive corps coming into their own. Elliott, by then a starter, was a key piece. Although he had a strong sophomore campaign, Elliott proved he still had more to show. In the second game of the 2018 season, Elliott made two interceptions against Ball State, a game the heavily-favored Irish would go on to win by only eight points, making Elliott’s

contributions that much more invaluable. He added two more interceptions on the season, becoming one of 35 players in the country to record four or more interceptions. Elliott credited much of the improvements made in the secondary to the coaching staff, particularly defensive pass game coordinator Terry Joseph, who joined the Irish in 2018. “Having Terry Joseph has really helped us to not think as much and just play fast and play together,” he said. With the recent loss to Michigan, it might be easy for this team to hang their head, knowing their hopes of returning to college football’s biggest stage are dashed. But not Elliott. Just as Notre Dame has always been about more than just football, this season is about more than just a bowl game. “We’ve still got all of our goals in front of us,” he said. “With five games left in the season, we’ve still got a lot of season left. We’re really excited to get back to work and work together. … Being a senior, being that this is my last season, I’m going to cherish these last five games and go give them my all.” Contact Charlotte Edmonds at



The observer | friday, November 22, 2019 |

chris finke | wr | DAYTON, OHIO

DIANE PARK | The Observer


Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Sept. 20 edition of The Observer. Chris Finke is somewhat of an anomaly. The 5-foot-9 graduate student out of Dayton, Ohio, has slowly risen in the ranks of Notre Dame football, proving an indispensable member of the team. Initially a walk on, Finke contributed on the scout team throughout his freshman year before earning a scholarship during fall camp of his sophomore season. Finke backed up the scholarship offer with a breakout sophomore season, recording 122 yards over 10 games and a touchdown against Syracuse and Virginia Tech. His progression only continued into his junior season, playing in all 13 games and starting in the team’s 21-17 win over LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Just as he’s continued to build on each season, Finke is always looking to find new ways to be an asset on the field, joining special teams as a key punt returner. Finke kicked off his senior year in memorable fashion, rising to snatch a 43-yard pass under the bright lights from then-quarterback Brandon Wimbush and put the Irish up 14-0. He continued to come up clutch in key moments, making 49 catches throughout the season for a total

of 571 yards. He showed a diverse range of skills, taking 19 punt returns for Notre Dame’s special teams. “It’s been a long journey. Definitely not something I imagined happening when I came here as a walk on,” Finke said. “But you know, as time progresses, you set new goals and not really satisfied with anything, trying not to get complacent.” Despite four years of experiences and memories, Finke wasn’t ready to hang up the helmet quite yet. Now, two games into his fifth year in the program Finke has no regrets about that decision. “There really wasn’t a whole lot that went into that,” he said. “Just as soon as I found out that they would have me back I was all for it.” With his changing responsibilities, so too has his leadership evolved. “My role on this team is you know, as a captain to lead the guys to lead by example and vocally and then do what I’m asked on the field and make plays and know my job and, and help our offense and special teams,” Finke said. Finke has also had to step into new positions following collarbone injuries to juniors Cole Kmet and Michael Young. Despite the shuffling around and having to adjust to new lineups, Finke remains optimistic of what lies ahead and considers himself a student of the game.

“I’ve had to play some positions at receiver that I don’t normally play and I’m moving out of the slot,” he said. “So it’s definitely something I’m learning and some I’m trying to get more experience at and find the nuance.” Finke’s gradual emergence in the program has provided him a unique perspective on the rise of some of the new faces on the team including sophomore wide receiver Lawrence Keys III and senior wide receiver Javon McKinley. “I love it. I mean, seeing those guys play well and then score touchdowns and make quick plays for us,” Finke said. “You know, it means a lot of good things for a team and just puts a smile on my face and all the other guys as well.” His dedication and leadership have not gone unnoticed, earning him the honor of being named one of seven captains following preseason camp. And with that title comes the expectation of mentorship. “They know, if they ever need anything, you know, they come to me and I try to be as an older guy, and as a leader in the room, someone who can help them out,” he said. “But I’m not one that’s going to take credit for anything that they’ve done.” With arguably the biggest matchup of his career — certainly the biggest road matchup of his career — around the corner in Georgia, Finke is using the 2017 one-point loss to the

Bulldogs to fuel his preparation. “We had it in our minds, it didn’t turn out the way that we wanted last time we played them, but at the same time, every year is a new year, every week’s a new week,” Finke said “And no matter who we’re playing, whether

it’s Louisville, New Mexico or Georgia, doesn’t really matter if we’ve played it before. It’s just the goal every week is the same — to win.” Contact Charlotte Edmonds at

Ann curtis | The Observer

Irish graduate student wide receiver Chris Finke cuts right with the ball during Notre Dame’s 52-20 victory against Navy on Saturday.

insider | friday, November 22, 2019 | The Observer


Alohi gilman | S | Laie, Hawaii

DIANE PARK | The Observer


Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Nov. 15 edition of The Observer. It’s one of the more unique rivalries in college football. Third-longest uninterrupted matchup in college football, the longest consecutive win streak over the same opponent and a number of marquee locations, Notre Dame-Nav y has certain quality that differentiates it from other rivalries: respect. Perhaps no one knows this quality better than Irish senior safety and captain Alohi Gilman, who’s lived it from both sides of the field. “W hen I was at Nav y playing against Notre Dame, obviously we had a huge respect for Notre Dame and now being at Notre Dame playing against Nav y, I have huge respect for the guys there,” Gilman said. “Some of my best friends play on the team right now.” Gilman’s path to Notre Dame has been anything but ordinar y. Originally from Laie, Hawaii, Gilman spent his first year out of high school at the Naval Academy Prep School. Following a year

there, he officially enrolled in Naval Academy, playing one season with the Midshipmen and helping lead them to a 9-5 record, including a one-point victory over the Irish. Having expired one year of eligibility Gilman then transferred to Notre Dame, forcing him to sit out the 2017 season. W hile Gilman seriously considered joining the Irish on the other side of another historic rivalry — USC — he said ultimately Notre Dame checked all the boxes he was looking for in a school. “Football checked out, checked the boxes, academically they are great. The networking was great, you know, all those areas that you kind of look at,” Gilman said. “But overall, I just felt really comfortable here. I felt like this was a unique place, fit my personality. And I just fell in love with the culture here and that tradition, coming from a program like Nav y that already had some of that culture and tradition. So this was something that I was obviously attracted to.” After sitting out the 2017 season, Gilman took college football by storm, starting all 13 games, recording five pass break-ups, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and setting a program bowl game

record for tackles with 19 against Clemson. Although he often made it look easy, Gilman said that journey came with a lot of challenges and growth along the way. “It’s been a big, big learning experience for me,” he said. “Coming from a transfer player to now being a captain of the team, and a lot of ups and downs but it’s definitely made me to the person I am today. Just working through different situations, figure out how to be the best player, best teammate I can be.” Despite being in only his second year in the Irish uniform, Gilman has distinguished himself as a vocal leader for the program on and off the field, often rallying the defense in important moments. In many ways, his development as a leader ultimately led to him being named one of seven captains can be attributed to his time spent at the Academy. “Nav y’s a ver y unique place, it forces you to grow up really fast,” he said. “Challenges you mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically obviously. So just a place where it really challenged me and a place that forced me to grow up and learn how to be a leader, learn how to be also be a follower, learn how

to take orders and be disciplined and organized. Those things were definitely huge to the person I am today.” Those leaderships skills continue to evolve, even throughout this past season. “This season has been an interesting one, just a different, different dynamic for me,” Gilman said. “Obviously, being an older guy now being a senior, someone where the younger guys look up to definitely gave me a better perspective on how to be the someone that someone can lean on, how to communicate better with people, and just being yourself, being genuine and being a guy who people can talk to you.” Gilman’s future still has a few question marks ahead. He still has one year of eligibility remaining but would be returning for a sixth year of school since graduating high school. W hile he might toy around with entering the NFL draft or moving on after graduation, his focus right now is on the next three games. “Personal goal [would] be three wins. I think that’ll be something that’ll be real nice,” Gilman said. “I’m just looking for ward to enjoying ever y moment, honestly just

enjoying the moments here on the field of my guys. I’m really excited for this game this weekend.” That ability to stay in the moment and soak it all in continues on Saturday, when Gilman will take the field with friends on both sides of the ball. “I think [I’m] just excited. Excited to play against my guys at Nav y,” he said. “Those are some of my best friends. Guys who [we] went through some challenges, some adversity together. So that’s a touchy one for me because … those guys helped me get through my trials there so although it’s going to be a bittersweet thing, it’s fun and I’m excited to play against them again.” However, once the f lyover commences and Gilman marches toward center field with the capital “C” stitched to his number 11 jersey, there’s no question where his loyalties lie. “Respect is a huge thing and but at the same time, when we take the field, when the ball tees up, you know, you’re tr ying to win and knock each other’s heads off,” he said. Contact Charlotte Edmonds at



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

tony jones jr. | rb | st. petersburg, florida

DIANE PARK | The Observer


Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Oct. 4 edition of The Observer. In the whirlwind that has been Notre Dame football from 2016 and beyond, the Irish have fielded a motley crew of running backs. From speedy backs to power backs to receiving backs and everything in between, Notre Dame Stadium has seen its fair share of playmakers in the backfield. And now, after the injury of junior running back Jafar Armstrong, it’s time for Tony Jones Jr. Notre Dame has produced some great running backs, no doubt. Jerome Bettis and Rocky Bleier come to mind. But in more recent history, especially in the Brian Kelly era, Notre Dame hasn’t made its mark as “Running back U.” At least not in the way a program like Georgia has been. And most of that is because it seems to lack a certain identity at running back. Unlike Georgia with a goto physical back like Nick Chubb, or Stanford with a speedster like Bryce Love or Ohio State with an all-around back like Ezekiel Elliott, the Irish have turned to rotations of backs who each bring something to the table. But within each rotation, there has been that

go-to guy — the Adams or the Williams — who you can count on for a break-out run to the house at some point. And both Adams and Williams were role-players within a rotation before they earned that go-to status. Four games into the season, the Irish seem to be without a coherent running back identity. But with the injury of Armstrong, perhaps Jones is the next man up, the next one to carry the baton like Williams and Adams did. Jones has shown glimpses of brilliance, posting a solid performance against Louisville in week one and a dominant game against Virginia last week, which was crucial in light of the passing attack’s shortcomings. He might not seem to fit that mold of the go-to back, and his highlight tape might not be as fancy as that of Dexter Williams, but a lot of the signs point to Jones as a consistent force in the offensive backfield, a force that will be imperative for a successful Notre Dame season. Jones is powerful, a solid blocker, and most importantly, he’s tough as nails. That’s a combination that can lead to success in any offensive scheme. And ironically, although many in the Notre Dame football circle still may not see Jones as “that guy” for the Irish, Jones never really saw himself as that guy for Notre Dame, either. When asked

about why he chose to attend Notre Dame to pursue his football career, Jones was frank. “I never liked [Notre Dame] when I was growing up,” he said. “My mom made me take a visit here, because she heard it was good on the field and off the field. And then, I just came here, and I just fell in love, and I committed the next day.” But his decision led to some fantastic memories and experiences, both for him specifically and for others who he had the chance to witness. Jones said that two plays distinctively stand above the rest in his time at Notre Dame. “My favorite play I was not in for was Miles Boykin’s catch vs. LSU [in the 2018 Citrus Bowl]. My favorite play I did was probably the USC game [in 2018] because it was my birthday, and I scored on my 21st birthday, and we won the game. So that was dope,” he said. But Jones has come a long way to get to where he is today as starting running back. Jones was a mainstay on the scout team his freshman year, finishing the season as one of nine scholarship freshmen who did not see the field. In his sophomore year, Jones showed signs of promise, rushing for 232 yards on 44 carries and appearing in 12 games. But still, he was mostly a role player, and he still showed signs of immaturity after a season on the sidelines. In his

junior season, Jones came into his own a bit, posting 392 total yards and three touchdowns, but he certainly was not yet in the form he is today. Jones attributed his development to personal growth and an increased understanding of the ins and outs of the game. “When I first started, I would say I was young and kind of just young and stupid, I guess, to a certain extent,” he said. “But now, I think I’m more mature. I understand the game more.” And luckily for Jones, he was prepared by a number of notable backs he had the chance to play under, like Dexter Williams and Josh Adams, who he said taught him an important mindset. “Stay ready, stay humble, stay hungry and just stay consistent and never get comfortable,” Jones said. Now coming into his own as a leader, Jones has put that advice to good use. Since Armstrong’s injury, Jones has said he’s stepped up on and off the field. “I’m not a vocal guy. I’m more lead-by-example, but since [junior running back] Jafar [Armstrong] went down, I’ve had to speak up a little bit,” he said. “And to be honest, I think it helped my game a little bit and made me get more hype and get more into the game.” Having come from a large running back rotation, Jones is very

complimentary of backs who play under him today. “They’re dogs, and they’re hardworking, and they’ll do anything for the team, and it shows when they play,” he said. “They play with their heart.” Jones was similarly confident about the offense’s potential this season. He said the Irish are poised to expose defenses on a number of fronts. “[The] sky is the limit,” he said. “You can pick your poison, if you want me or Jafar, or you can get the other running backs. You can get [senior wide receiver] Chase [Claypool], you can get [junior tight end] Cole [Kmet], you can get [junior wide receiver] Mike [Young] , [graduate student wide receiver Chris] Finke, [senior quarterback Ian] Book, it doesn’t matter — you pick your poison.” Whether or not Jones will come into his role as Notre Dame’s go-to running back in his potentially final season at Notre Dame is yet to be seen. But as of now, as he grasps the opportunity, Jones is happy to be where he is. “It’s a dream come true. Just to start at a prestigious school … and I think it’s just showing that my hard work is paying off. And that I’m that much closer to my goal in life,” he said. Contact Connor Mulvena at

Insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


khalid kareem | dl | detroit, michigan


By ELLEN GEYER Sports Writer

Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Oct. 11 edition of The Observer. Khalid Kareem has unfinished business. The senior, a 2018 Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and 2019 A ll-American hopeful, elected to return for his fourth and final year, forgoing an opportunity at the conclusion of his junior season to declare for the NFL Draft. He’s back to achieve the ultimate goal: the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy. Kareem explained that he returned this year so he and his teammates would have a shot at “finishing where [they] left off.” “I feel like we left a lot on the table in 2018,” Kareem said. “This is a national championship-caliber team. A lso, I came here to graduate from Notre Dame and that’s what I plan on doing.” Kareem himself played a large role in last year’s College Football Playoff

(CFP) bid, recording eight quarterback hurries, 10.5 tackles for loss, 42 total tackles, five pass break-ups, four and a half sacks and a forced fumble across his 13 starts in the 2018 season. Kareem has continued that trajector y this season, starting all five of Notre Dame’s games at defensive end. He’s already recorded two and a half sacks — second on the team only behind fellow A ll-American hopeful Julian Okwara — to go with seven solo tackles and 13 total tackles en route to his team’s 4-1 record. Amid Notre Dame’s 52-0 beatdown of Bowling Green, Kareem led the team in quarterback hurries (two) despite playing for just twoand-change quarters. The shutout, the first the Irish have had since holding Michigan scoreless in South Bend in 2014, was a statement Kareem feels needed to be made. “No matter who the opponent is, we have to step up and do our job,” he said. “As long as we keep the opponent to zero and our offense, let’s say they score even just three points, we win. We can go

out there and dominate any opponent. We have to carr y that out into the rest of our games.” As one of Notre Dame’s seven captains this year, it’s Kareem’s job to make sure all of his teammates also have that bend-don’t-break mentality. “I have the younger guys especially paying attention to me now. I’m tr ying to show them the right way, the right way to work,” he said. “But I know that I have to always be my best because someone’s always watching.” Kareem knows how important being a role model is since he himself has learned so much from the players who have come before him. “Mainly [I learned from] Isaac Rochelle. [Jonathan] Bonner, he was he was in our group my freshman year and then Jay Hayes. With them, it was learning how to work, really. Isaac was a captain, so I kind of got that from him. He wasn’t really the most vocal, but he was always doing things the right way,” Kareem said. Kareem’s learned his fair share from the guys on the other side of the ball, too,

with challenging matchups against his teammates on the offensive line in practice. He said that over the years, Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson in particular have prepared him like no one else could. “You’re going against the ver y best in practice, so it should be easier, going against the opponent. They’re two first-round offensive linemen, so they really helped me,” he said. “Going against Hainsey and Liam ever y day now? They help sharpen my game even more. I feel like they’d be doing me a disser vice if they take it easy on me. They wouldn’t be making me better. I wouldn’t be making them better. We wouldn’t be helping each other out. So, I really appreciate them.” That brotherhood is exactly what Kareem will miss the most after his graduation in May. “The ever yday memories I make in the locker room with my guys, that’s probably the best part about being here,” he said. “That’s probably what I’ll miss most when I leave, missing the guys I kind of grew up with, so to say.”

Family is ever ything for Kareem outside of football too, with his tight-knit unit at home acting as the driving force behind why he ended up at Notre Dame, just three hours away from his hometown of Detroit. “I was committed to A labama for about six months, but I realized it was really far for me and my family. I’m one of five children so that’d be pretty expensive for my family to come out and visit me ever y week for game days,” he said. “Notre Dame was the perfect fit for me and my family. It’s three hours away. It’s close enough to home where if they want to come out and see me, they can, but it’s far enough that I’m my own person.” And Kareem intends to give his family ample opportunity to see him play, looking for ward to leading his team to a 14-game season. “We came to win a national championship. As long as we keep ever ything in focus, we should be fine.” After all, Khalid Kareem has unfinished business. Contact Ellen Geyer at



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

JULIAN OKWARA | DL | charlotte, north carolina

DIANE PARK | The Observer

By HAYDEN ADAMS Associate Sports Editor

Editor’s note: A version of this article orginially appeared in the Sept. 13 edition of The Observer. Today’s college football landscape is defined by star quarterback play. Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields and Jake Fromm headline the talented group of quarterbacks featured in college football this season. Because of the increased importance of strong play under center, it is especially important for a modern defense to be able to put pressure on the quarterback. Fortunately for Notre Dame, that is something they are well-equipped to do. Irish senior defensive end Julian Okwara and fellow captain and senior Khalid Kareem lead a Notre Dame pass rush group that is talented, experienced and deep. Okwara says he believes this defensive end group is as talented as — if not the most talented — group in the country. “I definitely think we are [the best pass rushers]; definitely confident in our abilities, in our D-line,” Okwara said. “We are the best pass rushers in the country. Whatever people say doesn’t really matter. I think we’re just focused on us, and collectively, we’re just a great group of pass rushers.” Among the defensive ends, Kareem led the position group with 42 total tackles, while Okwara recorded 39 on the

season. However, a defensive end’s contributions are more accurately represented by tackles-for-loss and sacks. Okwara tied former Irish defensive tackle Jerry Tillery for the team lead with eight sacks last season while Kareem recorded 4.5. Okwara also led the Irish with 12.5 tackles-for-loss while Kareem came in second with 10.5. While the group may have been successful last season, that success will now result in increased attention from opposing teams. However, Okwara sees it as an advantage for the rest of the defensive line that the opposing offensive line has to devote more effort to stopping the ends. “Whatever attention I get, I think that’ll open up holes and pressures from the rest of the guys who aren’t getting those 1-on-1s,” Okwara said. “Like I said whatever happens to help the team win, I’m there for. I’ve got to win my blocks, whatever happens I got to play on and just keep going after the quarterback. They’re definitely gonna keep rushing and the other guys … will be able to put pressure on the quarterback and be able to help us win games.” Despite the increased focus on the defensive ends, they will still be able to make plays thanks to their ability to wear down the opposition with their depth. Along with Okwara and Kareem, the pass rush is supplemented by senior ends Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji. Okwara spoke of the camaraderie and

chemistry the defensive ends have built coming to Notre Dame together. “We all came together. Coming in we had the want to be the best pass rushers and the best D-ends in the country, so I think we all just bought in, especially going into the year as we started getting more reps,” Okwara said. “I think that has helped the whole team, just helped our confidence overall. Just getting more playing time on the field I think we just built that bond. We hang out a lot, we talk a lot. We’re pretty close. I mean, we see each other every day so you’ve got to have that bond.” For Okwara, he follows in the footsteps of his brother Romeo, a former Notre Dame defensive end and current member of the Detroit Lions. Julian said his brother played a role in recruiting him to the Irish, thanks in part to the experience the elder Okwara could pass on. “It definitely did [play a role] in some way,” Okwara said. “I think he definitely talked me into it and just told me the pro is just coming, honestly. It was a no-brainer once I came up here, and I mean, I’m proud of my decision, glad I’m still here. … Notre Dame is home.” Oddly enough, Okwara’s junior season numbers of eight sacks and 12.5 tackles-for-loss are both one short of his brother Romeo’s totals of nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss during his senior season with the Irish in 2015. The younger Okwara said that despite the statistical similarities with Romeo, there

isn’t any one-upmanship on his mind. “[It’s] not really a competitive thing,” Okwara said. “I think he’s happy for whatever I’m doing and I was always proud of him for whatever he did while he was here. … Some bragging a little bit, but it’s nothing really competitive.” While the entire Irish defensive line is stacked with talent, Okwara stands out among the rest, at least in the national media’s perception. Okwara was named to both preseason Second-Team All-American and to the watchlist for the Bednarik Award, given annually to the best defensive player in college football. Despite the early accolades, Okwara has remained focused and doesn’t let any talk phase him. “[It’s] not really [a factor],” he said. “Like I said we all come in with that approach to be the best every day, just to win the day overall. So I think just coming out here and working on what I need to focus on and not paying attention to the outside noise, I’m good with that. And just being able to stay focused and stay true to what I believe in and just the game plan. Just stay away from all that noise is the best thing for me.” Part of Okwara’s ability to tune out the noise is in his approach to the game, which is a unique blend of fun-loving and intense focus. “I definitely kick back, pregame. But once the clock hits 15, the ball snaps, I’m pretty locked in, I’m pretty focused,” he said. “I’m just really focused

on the game. I have the confidence that I’m the best out there, so I just keep that confidence and tell myself that the whole game.” While Okwara isn’t letting the hype get to him, he holds himself to a high standard, and he has set a lofty goal for himself as a result: 18.5 sacks on the season. While this target number is large, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that Okwara could achieve. This past spring, Irish head coach Brian Kelly made a highlight tape for Okwara of 27 missed sack opportunities he had in the 2018 season. If he were to finish on half of those, he would have led the nation in sacks and broken the record comfortably. However, that sack total becomes even more difficult now that teams are acutely aware of the threat Okwara poses. While he certainly wants to set the school record, that is hardly Okwara’s main objective. Regardless of whether or not he breaks the record, Okwara says his ultimate goal is for the team to achieve what it’s capable of, and if he fulfills his role, he believes good things will come his way. “Whatever happens, happens,” Okwara said. “I think as long as I’m doing my job for the team to w in, I think whatever the accolades that come after that, production w ill come as long as I’m doing my job — and I’m focused on that.” Contact Hayden Adams at

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


TEMITOPE AGORO | cb | riverdale, maryland

Agoro sees steady development over career By JIMMY WARD Sports Writer

Temitope Agoro — or as his friends call him, “Timmy” — has been critical for the Irish secondary for four years. The senior cornerback hailing from Riverdale, Maryland, played an important role on the special teams squad last year, playing in 11 games on the season. “I think what I liked about Notre Dame is it had good football and good academics,” Agoro said. “I wanted to go to a place where I could get a good degree and play for a big-time football program.” Agoro’s journey has been a long one, to say the least. His freshman year, he walked on to the squad for the infamous 4-8 2016 season. Agoro served as a vital member of the defensive scouting team in 2016. The next season he saw his first snap in action at Notre Dame Stadium against Miami (Ohio), where the Irish recorded their most dominant win of the 2017 season, beating the RedHawks 5217. Agoro continued to play a valuable role for the defensive scout team. However, this season Agoro has seen plenty more playing time. He has played in all 10 games thus far, recording three tackles on the year, two against

New Mexico and one against Bowling Green. The people Temitope credited most to his development as a player are teammates you might not expect. “I want to say [director of football performance] Matt Balis and [assistant strength and conditioning coach] Ian Bures, because when I came in, I was only like 175 [pounds],” Agoro said. “I was small, wasn’t really strong. I was fast but wasn’t explosive, and they completely changed my body physique.” When asked what his last game as a senior at Notre Dame Stadium means to him, Agoro had a tough time dealing with the reality of graduation and said something nearly all of the seniors have said coming into this week: time flies. “I don’t know,” Agoro said. “I feel like right now, I don’t really feel much. But I know after [the game], that’s when it’s actually going to hit me. I’m just going to reminisce on the past four years and how fast it’s gone by. It’s going to be a strong feeling of nostalgia.” As for his plans after his football days are over, Agoro surely has a bright future ahead of him, as he will graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. “I’ve always wanted to be an

entrepreneur, but I don’t know exactly,” he said. “I’m thinking about working with one of my professors — she wants me to continue with this one project, which I plan to do. Or I like cooking, so I might do that.”

Argoro’s go-to meal to cook is wings, not one particular flavor of wings either. His favorite is a mix of Asian zing, hot sauce and barbecue with ranch. But a culinary career is not his only option — though it

seems to be his favorite — as he also has a potential career with a Houston-based wine company on the horizon. Contact Jimmy Ward at

Annie smierciak | The Observer

Irish senior cornerback Temitope Agoro watches from the sidelines during Notre Dame’s 66-14 win over New Mexico at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 14. Agoro has seen action in all ten games this year.

mick assaf | rb | atlanta, georgia

Assaf appreciates little things out of public eye By DOMINIC GIBSON Sports Writer

EMMA farnan | The Observer

Irish senior running back Mick Assaf is tackled during Notre Dame’s 52-0 win over Bowling Green on Oct. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Running back Mick Assaf made his mark on the Notre Dame community both on the football team and on campus. Assaf has not only been a critical member of the offensive scout team, but he has also been a media personality with the popular “Mick’s Mix Tape,” where Assaf converses with his teammates. For the Atlanta native, those same teammates have also made the biggest impact on him during his time at Notre Dame. “Whether it’s the scout offensive guys I’ve been with for four years, or just the running back group, it really doesn’t matter,” Assaf said. “It’s whoever you’re with at that moment in your lift group. It’s just kind of those guys that make everything so special here.” Assaf said his teammates have also played a big role in some of the memories he’s made during his time at Notre Dame. “It’s the little things, just being with your teammates day in and day out,” he said. “Everyone loves game day, everyone loves

when you beat USC, everyone loves when you beat Stanford. But those moments on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that are special because they happen here, and we don’t have to deal with anyone else’s opinion of what happened. We just get to enjoy it.” Assaf saw limited action on the field during his Irish career, but he was able to contribute at the end of Notre Dame’s 52-0 win over Bowling Green in October, where he had four carries for 15 yards. A big part of every student athlete’s experience is conditioning, whether it be in the weight room, on the field or running to maintain shape. One of Assaf’s biggest memories, he said, came when the members of the team were required to run the stairs of Notre Dame Stadium. “A specific highlight I will always remember is running every step in the stadium in the summer when no one was here,” Assaf said. “It was exhausting but it’s something that you’ll always remember and something that you can’t really take away from your team on Saturday. No matter what happens, you always kind of have

that memory.” Notre Dame’s high academic standards and prestige, the prestige of the football team and the fact that his older brothers either attend or have attended school here were contributing factors to Assaf’s decision to come to South Bend. “I was drawn to Notre Dame because I felt like it was the pinnacle of where academics met athletics, specifically where a business school met football,” he said. “That along with two brothers being here, while I was in high school and when I arrived, was something that drew me to Notre Dame.” It is the same high-quality education that drew Assaf in that he said he hopes will help him in his future plans, as the marketing major is already in the works of creating his own company. “I’m working on starting a company called Yoke that is a two-sided virtual marketplace that allows fans to interact with their favorite celebrities through live video chatting, so we’ll see where that goes,” he said. Contact Dominic Gibson at



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

ASMAR BILAL | LB | indianapolis, indiana

Bilal looks to past leadership By PATRICK GALLAGHER Sports Writer

As fifth-year graduate student, Asmar Bilal reflected upon his collegiate career, he looked fondly upon his time at Notre Dame and said that “it was just a perfect fit.” Any Irish fan would heartily agree with this sentiment as Bilal is a pivotal part of a stout Notre Dame defense and has certainly made the most of his time with the team. He has even stepped into the national spotlight this year as he has posted 61 total tackles, which already shatters his career best. Bilal graduated from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis as a highly-recruited prospect who was ranked as the 23rd-best linebacker of his class by ESPN. His illustrious high school career included an Indiana Class 6A state championship over an unbeaten powerhouse in Carmel High School and a terrific senior campaign in which he recorded 155 total tackles, five sacks, and one interception. Bilal enrolled at Notre Dame despite offers from other respected programs such as Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Oregon, and Michigan. As a student, Bilal majored in sociology while spending time in both Duncan and Dunne Halls. Bilal mostly played in a reserve role during his first two seasons but still found a way to make a huge impact on the field, managing to rank third in special team tackles. He finally had his break out moment as a senior recording 50 total tackles with 10 starts. When asked about his growth as a player, Bilal explained that he had “become more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the game.”

Bilal had the opportunity to learn from two Irish legends — Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill. He stated that they had become really good friends through their experience and praised their very successful time together on the football field. “We had great chemistry,” Bilal said. “I could trust and depend on those guys. It was really nice playing with confident players, and I still keep in contact with both of them to this day.” With the departure of these two players, Bilal has become the leader of Notre Dame’s linebacking core. He has shown the ability to perform at a high level during close rivalry games and his 11 total tackles were instrumental in the Irish’s three-point victory over USC. Even at the lowest point of Notre Dame’s season, Bilal still served as an example of on-field excellence and his nine total tackles was one of the only positives that emerged out of the 31-point loss to Michigan. When asked about his role as a team leader, Bilal described how he has passed down his knowledge to the younger players. “It’s been rewarding to show some of the guys the key lessons that I picked up in my evolution as a player,” he said. “It has been really nice to see their growth this season.” Bilal’s stellar performances have attracted the attention of NFL scouts much like his friends Coney and Tranquil before him. Looking towards professional life, Bilal made one thing clear he “hopes to continue playing football at the next level.” Contact Patrick Gallagher at


Irish graduate student linebacker Asmar Bilal jumps on a tackle during Notre Dame’s 52-20 victory against Navy at home on Saturday.

liam eichenberg | ol | cleveland, ohio

Eichenberg reflects on mentorship, camaraderie By GRANT DelVECCHIO Sports Writer

Irish head coach Brian Kelly was noticeably pleased with his team’s performance in their 32-point victory over the Naval Academy, especially his senior offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg. “Liam Eichenberg is playing lights out right now,” Kelly said about Eichenberg’s performance. “That’s only making him a better player for next year.” But Eichenberg’s passions didn’t develop from a long history of football growing up, as it does for so many others. For him, childhood was all about grabbing rebounds and shooting hoops. “When I was younger I actually didn’t play football, I played basketball,” Eichenberg said. “I was kind of the tall kid in my grade school, so I played basketball up until freshman year. I was on AAU teams, played CYO, travel teams and stuff like that, and sixth grade I started playing football.” As he got older, he started putting on weight, eventually growing into his current 6’6” 300+ pound frame. This made all the difference in determining his athletic path. “I was always the tallest kid, but I wasn’t always the biggest kid I guess you could say,” Eichenberg said. “My freshman year I weighed 185 pounds, I was like 6’3”, and then my sophomore year I put on 65 pounds so I weighed like 250 my sophomore year — and then I just started playing varsity as a sophomore and that was kind of my goal.” Football made sense for Eichenberg, not only because of his size but also because of the prestige of the illustrious football program at his high school. “I went to a really good high school … a lot of good football players come out of there, it’s a powerhouse in Cleveland,” Eichenberg said. Early-on in high school, Eichenberg immediately began receiving looks from collegiate football coaches, and hometown powerhouse Ohio State was the first to call. Thankfully, the big man from Cleveland decided a change in scenery was needed. “I got recruited by Ohio State when I was a freshman, my sophomore summer before playing varsity I got offered to OSU and then kind of just kept going, and then Notre Dame offered me and I committed here as a junior I want to say,” Eichenberg said. “[Former offensive line coach] Harry Hiestand was here — he’s now with the [Chicago] Bears — so he was a big role in that, but I couldn’t pass up Notre Dame. I mean there’s nothing better than here.”

Hiestand has 37 years of coaching experience under his belt, including seven at the professional level. Moreover, the 2017 offensive line unit for Notre Dame, which was during Eichenberg’s freshman year, won the Jim Moore award given to the top offensive line unit in the nation. While “Eich” has had numerous mentors over the years in terms of football, he attributes much of his success off the field as a man to his family. When asked who his biggest role models were, Eichenberg didn’t hesitate. “Definitely my father and my grandfather, I would say those are the two people I look up to the most,” he said. “You know, just from athletics and just how to be a man, teaching me what’s right and wrong, how to respect people, all of that.” Unsurprisingly, however, most of Eichenberg’s time is spent with the rest of the offensive line, who have developed into one very big, happy family. “We pretty much do everything together,” Eichenberg said. “It’s been like that since I was recruited in high school. They call us ‘The Herd’ because we’re always walking around together. … It’s pretty much the whole line, they’re all close friends to me, we’re all brothers.” As a freshman, Eichenberg spectated from the sidelines as the likes of NFL first-round draft picks Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson battled with opposing defensive lines. The Cleveland native believes that year was incredibly informative for him as a football player. “One of the nice things about coming here and having Mike and then Quenton Nelson, it’s just like having two extra coaches at practice,” Eichenberg said. “The coaches have to focus on getting those starting five ready but a lot of people don’t understand

that those starting five normally coach the guys who are behind them and it kind of trickles down. “[Mike] was great, and he helped me out a ton. I couldn’t thank him enough, especially with where I am now in my career. I mean him, [former Irish lineman] Alex Bars, that whole starting line, Sam Mustipher, all of them. They’re all coaches and they’re all great guys. They helped us get to where we are, and not just me but everyone. We were very fortunate to have them.” Looking ahead, Irish fans have much to rejoice in the fact that this won’t be Eichenberg’s final season in blue and gold. “As of right now I’m more than likely going to come back for a fifth year,” he said. “I really don’t see that changing at all. Obviously I’d like to pursue football, but if not, I would like to go into something in business. I had an internship for Ferrara Candy over the summer; it was great up in Chicago, but definitely something in regards to business.” If there’s one thing Eichenberg has taken away over the past four years at Notre Dame, it is to always stay on top of things and get them done as soon as possible. “I think this school has made me realize, there’s a lot of things … I would say not procrastinating, and doing what I need to do at the earliest possible time,” Eichenberg said. “Not waiting, doing my job, I have to take care of what I have to do, and there’s no excuses. You can’t take a day off; for the rest of my life and even when I’m at home with my mom she says just relax and I can’t because I’m always doing stuff, so it’s definitely something different.” One thing is for certain, the future looks quite bright for Liam Eichenberg. Contact Grant DelVecchio at

ANNA MASON | The Observer

Irish senior offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg looks to pick up a block during Notre Dame’s 35-20 win over Virginia on Sept. 28.

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


Brandon garcia | cb/wr | casa grande, arizona

After waitlist, Garcia taking full advantage By HAYDEN ADAMS Associate Sports Editor

Brandon Garcia is no stranger to perseverance, seeing as he almost didn’t get into Notre Dame. The senior member of the Irish secondary from Casa Grande, Arizona said it took effort just to be able to call himself Irish. “I was actually waitlisted at Notre Dame, so I didn’t get in right away,” Garcia said. “I decided to email my admissions counselor back and forth for like three or four weeks, and then I thought that I had to do a little bit more to get myself on the radar, so I decided to fly out for a night with my mom and showed up for about 15 minutes to talk with my admissions rep. And I flew back home, and three weeks later they called me, so [it] worked out pretty well.” Garcia, a three-year varsity letter winner at Seton Catholic Prep, played both sides of the ball in high school. While he hasn’t seen much action for the Irish, serving on the offensive and defensive scout teams throughout his career, Garcia says it’s been a great experience to share a position with future NFL talent. “It’s really cool because these guys are really good leaders. They’re really strong leaders and they have good backgrounds, so they’re always just kind of pushing us to be the best to our abilities,” Garcia said. “[They are] really cool guys on and off the field, and it’s

cool to see them going to ball every weekend.” Formerly a member of Stanford Hall, Garcia won an interhall football championship playing running back for the Griffins in 2016. He says that, as big a part of his life playing varsity football is, the relationships he formed with his dormmates still mean just as much to him. “It’s been really cool because I made a lot of friends with my dorm. I met a lot of really cool guys who I’m still friends with and I live with right now,” Garcia said. “And it’s cool to watch them go and be successful in, like, the business world or the tech world and stuff like that, and just kind of do their own thing. So it’s been cool to have my friends from football and my friends outside of football, and just have those two presences merge sometimes and have them separate, too.” His bond with his dormmates is so strong, in fact, that his favorite memories of his time at Notre Dame are of goofing off with them. “[I’d think of] all my favorite memories and I’d give like the most mediocre one I can think of,” Garcia said. “[But] I lived in a six man for two years. So some of my favorite memories are just, like, coming home after practice and being able to hang out with those guys and procrastinate when we didn’t want to do homework and play video games or just mess around. And just [distracting]

ourselves because we had such a big room, so we could always find something new to do every day.” Aside from his work on the football field, Garcia took advantage of the opportunities presented to him at Notre Dame. He says another fun experience was being thrown into a cultural melting pot while getting to spend a summer studying abroad. “Well, in the summer of 2018, last summer, I was able to study abroad in Berlin for eight weeks. I got an SLA, so it was like a grant to go and study over there. And it was at this school where everyone was from a different place, whether it was someone from Russia, or Chile, or Egypt or Mexico, they’re just from all over the world,” Garcia said. “I was the only American there, so it was really cool. And our one common thing was that we all spoke German. So we were all practicing it together, and it was like that for eight weeks, and I just met a lot of really cool friends that were nothing like typical Notre Dame students. So that experience was awesome.” As for why he speaks German, Garcia said he picked it up on a whim. “I had taken Spanish forever, and so I felt like I was really comfortable with that language, and I kind of just wanted to do a third one for fun, because I felt like I had a pretty good grip on [Spanish and English],” he said. “German was really fun, just for the heck of it.”

As for what he’ll do when his career comes to an end, the psychology major with a minor in German has a unique career path lined up. “Yeah, it’s really funny. I actually missed [a couple of] days of practice because I was in Chicago interviewing with a company called E. & J. Gallo Winery,” Garcia said. “They’re a huge wine distributor, they’re like number one in the U.S. and they have a huge presence abroad too. I’ve been interviewing with them for two months, so

I think I sealed the deal.” All in all, Garcia says the familial element of his team is what means the most to him. “It means a lot just to be playing college football in general, but to be playing here is pretty special because everyone feels like a family, and when I talked to other guys at different schools, they don’t really get that sense,” he said. Contact Hayden Adams at


Irish senior cornerback Brandon Garcia lines up at scrimmage during the Blue-Gold game on April 13 at Notre Dame Stadium.

daelin hayes | dl | belleville, michigan

Hayes embracing leadership after injury By AIDAN THOMAS Sports Writer

In 2017, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosted their bitter rivals, the USC Trojans, in late

October. A year ago, the Irish had been blown out by the Trojans at the end of a demoralizing 2016 campaign. This year was about avenging that embarrassment, and the Irish did just that, taking

ANNA MASON | The Observer

Irish senior defensive lineman Daelin Hayes reads a play during Notre Dame’s 66-14 win over New Mexico at home on Sept. 14.

down the Trojans 49-14. Then a sophomore, Notre Dame defensive lineman Daelin Hayes was a force, recording a sack and disrupting USC quarterback Sam Darnold all game long. It’s Hayes’ favorite memory with the Irish, but he came pretty close to playing that game from the other side. “I was committed to USC for two years,” Hayes said. “I think I committed more to Los Angeles than USC, though. Being a kid from Michigan, it was my first time on the west coast. I always loved Notre Dame, and coming back here, I knew it was the place I was meant to be.” Hayes felt at home with his choice of school for not only the football program, but also what the University offered off the field. The dorm life, campus scenery and academics all are aspects of the Notre Dame experience that Hayes feels he benefited from. While football and academics — Hayes is a film, broadcasting and television major — takes up a large portion of Hayes’ time, he also enjoyed the time he spent in his dorm, O’Neill Hall, during his years living on campus. He stayed in the same section as fellow defensive lineman Khalid Kareem,

and the duo became part of what Hayes described as a “very welcoming, tight-knit group”. But his favorite non-football related memory? Hayes can’t name a specific event, but rather thinks about his favorite time of year. “I love when we come out of the winter and it’s been such a tundra for months, and we start transition from spring to summer,” Hayes said. “I tell people all the time, I don’t think there’s a more beautiful place in the world.” However, despite his embrace of the dorm culture and academics at Notre Dame, Hayes’ greatest impact has come on the field. The Irish have benefited greatly from Hayes’ change of heart, as the senior standout missed only one game over his first three years. Over those 37 games, Hayes accumulated 72 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and recovered four fumbles. Heading into his senior season, Hayes was primed for another strong season with the possibility of being drafted in April. In a devastating turn of events, Hayes was injured just four games into his senior campaign, tearing his labrum and ending his season. Thanks to the new redshirt rules, however,

Hayes will be back next year to complete his Notre Dame career. In the meantime, he’s focused on continuing his growth as a leader within the Notre Dame locker room. “I think it’s a place that has challenged me to grow in different ways. I’ve learned to grow through adversity. It’s been a pretty cool process, and I’m glad I chose to come here,” Hayes said. “This is the best place for me to fully embrace as a young man and what I want to stand for.” After playing almost every game for three years, such a heartbreaking injury could have mentally destroyed Hayes, but he has taken it in stride, focusing on what he can do to best prepare for next season, when he will return as one of the most experienced players in the program. “I’m working on enhancing my leadership, stepping up and being the best leader I can be, establishing our culture early, and setting the tone,” Hayes said. “It’s all about earning that right to wear that monogram across your chest.” Contact Aidan Thomas at



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

HEAD T 2:30 p.m. ET | notre dame stadium

ANNA MASON | The Observer

IRISH PASSING It took 10 games, but Ian Book finally used the superior athletes at his disposal and took some deep shots with tremendous results against Navy. While it would have been ideal to perform like this a few weeks ago, the timing could spell disaster for Boston College. The Eagles rank 125th in the FBS with 302.3 passing yards allowed per game. Overall, they’re 128th in total defense, giving up 486.9 all-purpose yards per game. The lack of rushing yards allowed per game is likely due in large part to the fact that opposing offenses have thrown the ball all over BC. Combine that with a season-total 11 team sacks (122nd in the FBS) and an Irish passing attack hitting its stride, and this could be a long afternoon for the Eagles. EDGE: Notre Dame

IRISH RUSHING Where to go with the Irish run game? On the one hand, just when they seem to be find their rhythm against Duke, they choke up and post a lackluster 120-combined rushing yards against Navy. But honestly the way Chase Claypool and Chris Finke are receiving the ball, does it even matter? Boston College on the other hand has allowed 184.6 average yards against some pretty average opponents. It’ll be interesting to see if the Eagles can cause enough damage to force Book to create out of the pocket but if so, Book has demonstrated that he and his running back crew of Tony Jones Jr. and Jahmir Smith have every ability to pick up major yardage for the Irish. EDGE: Even


notre dame

ANNA MASON | The Observer

vulnerable on defense. If the Irish are able to draw up a few plays that break out for big yardage in this one, they might be able to blow this thing open early on. I think Chip Long and Co. will have some creative things in store that will work against Boston College’s subpar defense. I’d give the Irish a notable edge here.

(So.) Braden Lenzy 25 (So.) Joe Wilkins 18

(Sr.) Liam Eichenberg 74 (Jr.) Tony

Jones Jr.

6 8

(Jr.) Jafar Armstrong

(Sr.) Ian Book 12

EDGE: Notre Dame

(So.) Phil Jurkovec 15



(Jr.) Cole Kmet


(Gr.) Chris





(So.) Lawrence Keys III

(Sr.) Chase

(Gr.) Shaun Crawford 20

(Jr.) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah 6

(So.) Paul Moala 13

(Sr.) Jalen Elliott


(So.) Houston Griffith 3



(So.) Micah Jones 80

(Sr.) Troy Pride Jr. 5




(Sr.) Jamir Jones 44 (So.) Ovie Oghoufo 29

(R-So.) Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa 95

(Sr.) Alohi Gilman


(Fr.) Kyle Hamilton 14


(Jr.) Kurt Hinish 41 (Fr.) Jacob Lacey 54

(Sr.) Adetokunbo Ogundeji 91

(Gr.) Asmar Bilal 22 (Jr.) Jordan Genmark Heath 2

(Sr.) Donte Vaughn 8

(Sr.) Jonathan Doerer 39

(Fr.) Harrison Leonard 98

(Gr.) Chris Finke 10 (Sr.) Alohi Gilman 11


Charlotte Edmonds

Connor Mulvena

Hayden Adams

Managing Editor

Sports Editor

Associate Sports Editor

I was really surprised that the Irish beat up on Navy last weekend. I do think Malcolm Perry choked in a big spot, but that win was all ND. I’ve always hated the BC “rivalry” narrative. Just because we’re both Catholic doesn’t mean we’re rivals. The Irish are favored by over two touchdowns, and Boston College, besides AJ Dillon, is not a great team in a conference that is the worst of the power five this year. If the Irish can build off the offensive momentum from the win over Navy, I could see Notre Dame covering and then some. If it were on the road, I’d be more concerned with the defense’s ability to handle AJ Dillon, but since the game is South Bend, I think they’ll manage. I like the Irish to win easily here, but not a blowout like last week.



(So.) TaRiq Bracy 28

(Fr.) Jay Bramblett 19

FINAL: Notre Dame 28, Boston College 14

(So.) Jayson Ademilola 57

(Sr.) Khalid Kareem 53


(Fr.) Harrison Leonard 98

Boston College is No. 97 in the nation in defensive efficiency, and the Eagles have spotted some big numbers to some pretty mediocre football teams. Syracuse, who is in a tough down year, put up 27 on them, Kansas put up 48, and Florida State put up 38. So the Eagles are definitely

FINAL: Notre Dame 52, Boston College 21

(So.) Cole Mabry

(So.) Tommy Tremble 24

(So.) Bo Bauer 52

This one’s weird. On the one hand, it has all the makings of a great rivalry — only two Catholic schools in the country with FBS football programs and a relatively balanced outcome (Notre Dame leads the series 14-9) — but as of late hasn’t been much of a competition. While they haven’t all been blowouts, lesser Notre Dame team’s than this one have been able to inflict their will on the Boston College. Add in the fact that the Eagles are no juggernaut on the gridiron and Ian Book and Co. should have their way with things on Saturday. Did they beat the same Virginia Tech team that nearly pulled one out in South Bend two week ago? Yes. But Virginia Tech’s been all over the map this year and simply wreaking havoc on Notre Dame’s opponent. Don’t expect that Boston College win in the first game of the season to mean much this weekend.

(Jr.) Colin Grunhard 61

(Jr.) Josh Lugg 75

(Jr.) Drew White 40

Sept. 2 @ Louisville (W 35-17) Sept. 14 New Mexico (W 66-14) Sept. 21 @ Georgia (L 23-17) Sept. 28 Virginia (W 35-20) Oct. 5 Bowling Green (W 52-0) Oct. 12 USC (W 30-27) Oct. 26 @ Michigan (L 45-14) Nov. 2 Virginia Tech (W 30-27) Nov. 9 @ Duke (W 38-7) Nov. 16 Navy (W 52-20) Nov. 23 Boston College Nov. 30 @ Stanford

(So.) Jarrett Patterson 55 (So.) John Dirksen 56

EDGE: Notre Dame


(Jr.) Dillan Gibbons 76

(Gr.) Trevor Ruhland 57

IRISH OFFENSIVE SPECIAL TEAMS Starting junior place kicker Jonathan Dorer has been spot on for extra points this season, a perfect 44-44. He has also been pretty solid with the 10 field goals he has attempted this season, nailing eight. However, one of his misses came in the narrow 21-20 victory over Virginia Tech, making this kick would have added a nice cushion for the Irish. On the punting side of things true freshman Jay Bramblett has had some shaky punts this season and only has an average of 40.3 yards through his 49 punts. With the Boston College defense giving up 6.56 yards per play, ranking No. 116 in the country, hopefully Bramblett won’t be seeing the field much.

(Fr.) Andrew Kristofic 73

(Jr.) Aaron Banks 69



(Fr.) Jay Bramblett 19 (Gr.) Nolan Henry 17

(So.) Lawrence Keys III 13 (So.) Joe Wilkins 18

(Sr.) John Shannon 54 (So.) Michael Vinson 65


Where was that all season? Notre Dame finally took full advantage of its superior athletes against Navy and showed Chase Claypool is an absolute nightmare of a matchup for opposing secondaries. Oh well, better late than never. Now, the Boston College Eagles come into Notre Dame Stadium in late November once again, this time with less at stake for the Irish than in 1993. Basically all that Boston College has going for them is junior running back A.J. Dillon, a player the Irish offered in 2016 who could put up a Bryce Love-esque performance against the Irish. Aside from Clemson, they haven’t faced a defensive test like Notre Dame presents, and their defense has been gashed by the likes of Kansas (48 points allowed), Louisville (41 points) and Florida State (38 points). FINAL: Notre Dame 45, Boston College 24

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


O HEAD on nbc






Jason Maitre (R-Fr.)


27 Josh DeBerry (Fr.)




36 Paul Theobald (R-So.)

Marcus Valdez (R-So.)




Mike Palmer (R-Jr.)

8 Jahmin Muse (R-So.)

44 Brandon Barlow (R-Jr.)


TJ Rayam (Jr.)


96 Ireland Burke (Fr.)

Tanner Karafa (Gr.) 98 Kyiev Bennermon (R-Fr.) 2 Richard Yeargin (Gr.) 90 48


John Lamot (R-Fr.)

42 Vinny DePalma (R-Fr.)

Bryce Morais (R-Jr.)


Max Richardson (R-Jr.)




Joe Sparacio (R-Fr.)

8 Jahmin Muse (R-So.)



Medhi El Attrach (Gr.)

5 Nolan Borgersen (Gr.)

Brandon Sebastian (R-So.)

7 Tate Haynes (R-So.)

EDGE: Notre Dame

Kobay White (R-Jr.)


23 Travis Levy (Jr.)


Korab Idrizi (Sr.)


80 Hunter Long (R-So.)

Ben Petrula (Jr.)


62 Hayden Mahoney (Jr.)

John P hillips (Gr.)


56 Adam Korutz (R-Jr.)


Alec Lindstrom (R-So.)

55 Dwayne Scott (Gr.)



AJ Dillon (Jr.)

26 David Bailey (So.)


Dennis Grosel (R-So.)

7 Matt Valecce (R-Fr.)

Anthony Palazzolo (Gr.)


77 Zion Johnson (Jr.)

Tyler Vrabel (R-Fr.)


71 Nate Emer (R-So.)

Jake Burt (Gr.)


80 Hunter Long (R-So.)


Ben Glines (Gr.)

4 Zay Flowers (Fr.)


J.R. Osborn (Sr.)

4 Owen White (Sr.)

Travis Levy (Jr.) 19


Ben Glines (Gr.)


Aidan Livingston (Fr.)

54 Evan Stewart (R-Fr.)

The loss of starting quarterback Anthony Brown to a season-ending knee injury launched former walk-on Dennis Grosel into the rotation just over a month ago. Grosel doesn’t have nearly the same consistency as Brown, however he seems to have settled in recently throwing 195 and 227 yards in the last two games, respectively. At the end of the day though this is not a team that likes to put the ball in the air. Not that they’re not capable of it, but when you have a quarterback still adjusting to the pace of the game and a running back as dominant as A.J. Dillon, why wouldn’t you? Not that there’s any reason the Eagles would be expected to try to air the ball out, but against the Notre Dame secondary that includes Jalen Elliott and Kyle Hamilton that would be unwise.



Aaron Boumerhi (Gr.)

37 Danny Longman (So.)


Grant Carlson (R-Jr.)

37 Danny Longman (So.)

Travis Levy (Jr.) 39 Andrew Strader (R-Jr.)

Junior running back A.J. Dillon is a workhorse for Boston College. The 6-0, 250-pound back has already racked up 4148 career rushing yards, 1451 of which have come this season, good for 3rd in the FBS. Dillon has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in seven games this season. He failed to reach 150 in only one of those seven and has surpassed the 200 rushing yard mark in two games, posting 13 rushing touchdowns on the season. Aside from him, sophomore back David Bailey has chipped in 765 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. After them, rushing production drops off precipitously. While those two could be a handful, a vaunted Irish pass defense should make the Eagles one-dimensional and a solid run defense should stand firm with Clark Lea making proper adjustments as he has all season.

progress. Just t wo years ago, the Eagles averaged a mere 25 points per game. Now, they’re recording an average of nearly 33 points per game. They’re red zone completion and 3rd dow n conversion percentages are all fair but nothing particularly daunting. On the one hand, this Notre Dame team has relied on its defense all season. But that same defense has been a bit of a let dow n so this one’s draw.

EDGE: Notre Dame

EAGLES OFFENSIVE SPECIAL TEAMS Boston College graduate student kicker Aaron Boumerhi has converted eight of 13 attempts, including two of three beyond 40 yards. Meanwhile, redshirt junior Grant Carlson has been a consistent punting force for the Eagles. The Irish have certainly improved their tendency from last year to collect penalties on special teams but with the exception of a big play in Athens, Georgia, have yet to show much. Don’t expect them to make many mistakes but it probably won’t be the place that makes or breaks this matchup either. EDGE: Notre Dame

EAGLES SCHEDULE (5-5) Aug. 31 Virginia Tech (W 35-28) Sept. 7 Richmond (W 45-13) Sept. 13 Kansas (L 48-24) Sept. 21 @ Rutgers (W 30-16) Sept. 28 Wake Forest (L 24-27) Oct. 5 @ Louisville (L 41-39) Oct. 19 NC State (W 45-24) Oct. 26 @ Clemson (L 59-7) Nov. 2 @ Syracuse (W 58-27) Nov. 9 Florida State (L 38-31) Nov. 23 @ Notre Dame Nov. 30 @ Pitt

EDGE: Even



Notre Dame vs. Temple

In his first year as offensive coordinator for Boston College, Mike Bajakian has continued to build on last year’s

Ellen Geyer

Jack Concannon

Sports Writer

Sports Writer

I’m starting to become suspicious that Brian Kelly and his team have been listening to the Basement Breakdow n. After giv ing the Irish a hard time for a poor mid-season stretch, I have little to complain about follow ing Notre Dame’s recent beatdow ns of Duke and Nav y. I think this team has all the pieces to continue that form into the final home game of the season. With an offense that relies so heav ily on its older statesmen — Book, Clay pool, Jones Jr. — the Irish w ill be ready to put on a show for Senior Day. Throw in the fact that Boston College is struggling to stay at .500 and I’d say Saturday’s game smells like a big w in.

The run defense is back! The Irish looked excellent last weekend against Nav y, defending their home field once again. The Irish w ill seek to make it t wo straight seasons undefeated at home this weekend against Boston College, and I am confident that they w ill do it. This Eagles team has dropped three of its last five, limping through the end of its ACC season. They have a strong run game, but the Irish front seven are starting to prove that Michigan was the exception, not the norm. I think BC moves the ball a bit better than some expect, but the Irish still take this one handily to close out the home slate.

FINAL: Notre Dame 42, Boston College 24

FINAL: Notre Dame 45 Boston College 28

Follow Observer Sports on Twitter for live updates and analysis during the game this weekend and all season long. @ObserverSports



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

nolan henry | qb | vancouver, washington

Henry exemplifies team player By JIMMY WARD Sports Writer

For graduate student Nolan Henry, legacy, tradition and teamwork is essential. Four years ago, the quarterback hailing from Vancouver, Washington, had an important decision to make. The Union High School senior decided he would be attending Notre Dame. “The big thing for me was, the tradition here is certainly great and the legacy here is cool and all [and] the ability to be a part of that and something greater than yourself in all aspects,” he said. “The education, as well. I think those were the two big points for me coming out of high school. I had gotten in here as just a student. I applied early. I had offers from other schools, so I was weighing between the two, and then once I got accepted here, I actually got contacted by the team and figured this would be the right decision for my future.” After Ian Book earned the starting quarterback position, Henry was assigned to hold kicks for Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer, Justin Yoon. For a position where all the blame would fall on the holder for a botched kick, Henry played off the nerve-racking job calmly, mostly crediting Yoon himself. “Last year was really cool, especially with Justin becoming the all-time leading scorer in Notre Dame history. That was certainly special,” Henry said. “And then being in the playoff game, the field goal I held for Yoon [was] certainly awesome, as well. He was a particular kicker, so it took a little effort both out of me and Ian last year to get him what wanted, but

he did a great job and it was a really cool experience with that.” When asked what the biggest lesson he learned during his time at Notre Dame, Henry said it was learning to being a team player. “Like what I said earlier, giving everything you have to something that is bigger than yourself,” he said. “That’s been a big turning point in the program, I was here for the 4-8 year, and it seemed like the next years after that, it was all about accountability to your teammates. I think growing in that brotherhood was a big part of that year and these consequent years afterwards. That’s the biggest thing that all of us learned: perseverance, just the mentality to never give up and push through any mental or physical pain that we have. I know that will serve all of us for the rest of our lives.” Finally, when asked what he wants to remember about this season, Henry said the most important thing was the development of younger quarterbacks. “I think this season, just in general for me coming back as a fifth-year and as more of a — not necessarily a player-coach, but just more on that side of the ball — remembering the relationships I continue to make this year and some of the impacts I may have had helping the development of the younger quarterbacks, helping Ian [Book] as much as I can, I think that will be the thing I hang my hat on moving forward,” he said. “Just making great memories everywhere we go, whether it’s a home game or an away game, it’s just been really cool.” Contact Jimmy Ward at


Irish senior quarterback Nolan Henry runs downfield during the Blue-Gold Game on April 13 at Notre Dame Stadium.

jamir jones | dl | Rochester, new york

Jamir Jones has earned time in spotlight By AIDAN THOMAS Sports Writer

Jamir Jones came to Notre Dame looking to join an elite program that had accumulated a 39-13 record over the past four years, with two bowl victories and a BCS National Championship game appearance to their name. However, Jones’ freshman year as a defensive lineman was hardly what he or anyone on the Irish had in mind. After a brutal 47-50 double-overtime loss at Texas to start the year, Notre Dame stumbled to a 4-8 record. Jones spent much of the year on special teams, playing well, but the season left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Fast forward three years, and Jones is getting ready to graduate, capping off a career that saw him help the Irish rebound from their 2016 disaster, transforming Notre Dame back into an elite squad. In the last three seasons, the Irish went 30-6, and Jones became a key cog of a vastly improved defense. In that 2016 season, Notre Dame gave up 30 points in a game six times. They did so three times in 2017, but have been victimized for 30+ points just twice in the past two seasons. “We gotta keep building into this brotherhood that we have. That’s why were so tight,” Jones said of the defensive unit. “We’ve seen the lows and we’ve seen the highs.” One member of that brotherhood was Jones’ older brother, Jarron, a former Notre Dame standout and current lineman for the Buffalo Bills. Jarron was in his final year of eligibility when Jamir was a freshman, and it was actually on a visit with his older brother that Jamir first saw the Notre Dame campus. “It was so different from all the other schools. Everyone seemed so happy. The scenery was like none other. Going down that drive, seeing the Golden Dome, I was speechless. On gamedays, the tradition, the excellence around it, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Jones said. Then just starting high school, Jones would establish himself as a standout at the Aquinas Institute in Rochester, New York, and eventually landed an offer from Notre Dame. Turning down several offers from ACC schools like Pitt and Boston College, Jones headed to South Bend, where he quickly became an instrumental part of the roster. While he largely played special teams in that rocky freshman year, Jones absorbed as

much as he could from the upperclassmen. “James Onwualu, Te’Von Coney, Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, my brother, Jarron, all those guys .. they’ve all shaped me, people I wanted to be like and people who helped me throughout my years with the team,” Jones said, recalling several linebackers that helped him prepare for his transition to the defense. Jones’ role models were not limited to the football field, however. “My brothers, my dad, my mom, for sure” Jones said with a smile. “My whole family, really. The stories they have to tell are unbelievable. They’re people I know I can always count on and look up to.” Although not a starter, Jamir still made his presence known on Notre Dame’s improving defensive unit, recording four solo tackles his sophomore year and then another twelve his junior year. However, heading into his senior year, Jones found himself lower on the depth chart, thanks in part to a loaded senior class filled with NFL prospects like fellow senior defensive linemen Julian Okwara and sophomore Daelin Hayes. For a while, it looked like Jones may redshirt to preserve his eligibility, but a season-ending injury to Hayes changed those plans. Praised

by coach Brian Kelly for his consistent work during practice even with a lack of playing time, Jones stepped up and grinded his way into the starting lineup, putting up stunning numbers in the process. In two less games than perceived top prospect Okwara, Jones has virtually matched his classmate with 17 tackles, six for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. Jones started last weekend’s game against No. 23 Navy, and he looks to be a mainstay in the lineup for the Irish’s final contests of 2019. Looking back at his career, Jones’ favorite memories include three straight victories over archrivals USC, including a trip to the Coliseum last year, where the Irish knocked off the Trojans to clinch an undefeated regular season and trip to the College Football Playoff. “That was my favorite win”, Jones said. Jones hopes his career isn’t over, as he looks to earn an opportunity in the NFL, but he knows the importance of the bonds and connections he’s made these past four years. “Twenty years down the road, I’ll still have brothers I can call,” he said. Contact Aidan Thomas at

ANNA MASON | The Observer

Irish senior defensive lineman Jamir Jones fights off a blocker during Notre Dame’s 45-14 loss to Michigan on Oct. 26.

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


jonathan jones | lb | ocoee, florida

God led Jonathan Jones to Notre Dame By NATE MOLLER Sports Writer

Senior linebacker Jonathan Jones may not have ended up at Notre Dame if God hadn’t led him here. Jones was considering multiple schools, but there were multiple signs that told him that Notre Dame was the right fit for him. “Every big decision in life, I pray and ask God for guidance to take me where I want to go. It came down to a few schools — Michigan, Duke, UCF, Syracuse and here. I prayed that God would show me the right way to go and shut down any doors that I wasn’t supposed to go through,” Jones said. Jones was seriously considering going to Duke before a large storm prevented him from visiting. “I was supposed to go to Duke on an official visit and it stormed like crazy,” he said. “I couldn’t even get on the plane because the storm was so bad, so I couldn’t even see Duke. That took them off the list.” Jones said after weighing all his options and lots of prayer, he knew Notre Dame was the place for him. “The most logical place was to come here,” Jones said. “And also it’s Notre Dame. You can’t really

turn down Notre Dame. So here I am.” Jones plays a crucial role on the defensive line for the Irish, and has also played his share on special teams squad. During his four years as a part of Notre Dame football, Jones has enjoyed watching his younger teammates and fellow classmates excel on the field. “I love seeing a lot of young guys and guys in my class make plays and see their story develop,” Jones said. Jones also mentioned one of the favorite parts of every game is when the 1812 Overture plays at the conclusion of the third quarter. “I really like in the fourth quarter when they play the 1812 Overture,” Jones said. “I love when the students are throwing up their hands. I love that.” Off the field, Jones has enjoyed participating in the Camp for Kids program that the football team participates in every offseason. “I really enjoyed when we would do ‘Camp for Kids’ with middle schoolers and elementary kids,” Jones stated. “It was in the offseason, and we would break up in our groups and take these kids and play with them. They loved it and we enjoyed it. That was probably my favorite experience.”

Jones, once a resident in Knott Hall, said he loved his time there. “That was hands-down the best dorm on campus. It wasn’t one of the newer ones, but for its time, it is pretty modern as it had AC and everything you needed,” Jones said. “Shout out to my man PK for holding it down at Knott. He’s the head RA there. Great guys, and everybody is really accepting and everyone is about their business but knew how to have fun, so I love it there. It was a great experience.” Jones is a native of Orlando, Florida, and is pursuing a major in Film, Television, and Theatre. “First I was a graphic design major in visual communication. I could picture what I wanted, but I couldn’t put it on paper, so my parents and I decided that I would be better at speaking, public relations and media-type stuff, so I decided on FTT,” Jones said. Jones said he has especially enjoyed his FTT classes his senior year. “Right now, I have had to do a lot of critical research essays about the media world, and I’ve really enjoyed gaining knowledge about that and putting it in project form,” Jones said. After graduation, Jones plans to take a year off before going into

the Navy. “I have planned to take a year off and go home and enjoy my family for awhile,” he said. “Then after that. I am going to join the Navy

for a couple of years and then from there see where life takes me.” Contact Nate Moller at

ann curtis | The Observer

Irish senior linebacker Jonathan Jones sings the Alma Mater after Notre Dame’s 52-20 win over Navy on Saturday at home.

tommy kraemer | ol | cincinnati, ohio

Mentors influence Kraemer’s development By ANGELA OVERLACK Sports Writer

Senior Tommy Kraemer plays a significant role for the offensive front, protecting the quarterback from the right guard position. While his interest in football started at a young age, he only started

playing in seventh grade. The more he played, the more he was determined to pursue the sport in college following his time at Elder High School in Cincinnati. When he had to decide what university to attend, he was set on Notre Dame. “I committed here pretty

ANNA MASON | The Observer

Irish senior offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer blocks for Ian Book during Notre Dame’s 35-20 win over Virginia on Sept. 28

early my sophomore year of high school,” Kraemer said. “I just came up here after visiting a couple times and absolutely fell in love with it and the people, so it was a pretty easy decision for me.” Since then, Kraemer saw action in all 13 games as a sophomore in 2017 and played in 12 games his junior year. He said it was a special experience, having played with so many memorable teammates and leaders and “even just being able to know guys that are playing in the NFL.” These moments of playing time with star players gave Kraemer memories that stick out in his Notre Dame experience. Kraemer said his time off the field was just as important to him. “Those guys that you play with every week on the field are your best friends off the field as well,” he said. “You live with each other and do everything together, so I mean it’s the perfect relationship.” He pointed to his current roommates, junior offensive lineman Robert Hainsey, junior tight end Brock Wright and graduate student offensive lineman Logan Plantz. “It’s the guys that I’ve played with and I’ve lived with that have made life that much more fun,” Kraemer said. One of his favorite memories as a player was Thursday pizza night with the rest of the offensive

linemen, where they hung out, ate pizza and watched the game. “It was really just to get our minds relaxed and to hang out with a great group of guys,” he said. A particular football moment he wanted to highlight was playing with the offensive line in 2017, anchored by Quinton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, who had won the Joe Moore Award that year. He recalls it being one of his most special moments at Notre Dame, especially since the 2017 season had been such a success. “We broke just about every record you could imagine. We had two top-10 picks in the left side. We were pretty much unstoppable. It was a lot of fun to play with those guys,” Kraemer said. Academically, Tommy will receive a degree in management consulting at the end of next semester. Regarding future plans, he said he could see himself going into consulting or even teaching. “Both my parents are teachers, and I have a long line of teachers in the family, so I think that would be something I’d really enjoy,” Kraemer said. With little preference in location, Tommy is very open to the possibility of moving around and seeing where his career and future endeavors may take him. He highlighted some players and friends who helped make his experience at Notre Dame one to

remember. “I’d like to give a special thank you to my close friends: Robert Hainsey, Brock Wright, [junior tight end] Cole Kmet, my family and girlfriend,” he said. “I mean, just about everyone who has been able to help me throughout this journey.” This support system throughout his time at Notre Dame made his experience that much better, he said. In his words, his Notre Dame seems short, though he said he often wouldn’t listen when people told him time would fly by. “My biggest advice for incoming football players would be to soak it up,” he said. “Here I am getting ready for Senior Day, and it’s kind of crazy.” For new and current football players, Kraemer recommended to make the most of every day in classes, on the field and with everyone you surround yourself with. He said he was looking forward to Senior Day, despite currently being sidelined with a sprained MCL. “It’s going to be fun, but it is too bad that I am hurt and won’t be able to play,” he said. It has been quite the college career for Tommy Kraemer, and he looks forward to what the future may hold. Contact Angela Overlack at



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

JOHN LAGER | TE | Golden valley, minnesota

Lager living out dream of wearing gold helmet By CASSANDRA MILLER Sports Writer

John Lager, a graduate student hailing from Golden Valley, Minnesota, started his unique football journey to becoming a tight end for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish back in the third grade. “I actually played in third grade, the first year I could, and I didn’t play after that year because I got kicked out of the league because I hurt a lot of kids, so I thought that everybody didn’t like me,” Lager said. It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school that he picked up football again. Attending Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Lager would go on to be a ten time letter winner in hockey, baseball and of course, football. “I tried out again freshman year, started liking it, started liking the guys that I was with and just kept playing it. And it ended up working where I was getting recruited out of high school to play in college,” Lager said.

It was after completing his undergraduate degree at Yale in December of 2018 that Lager decided to take his fifth year of eligibility to play football for Notre Dame. Someone from his undergraduate program put him in contact with their cousin who played for Notre Dame and Lager reached out to the cousin and the coaches to explore his options at Notre Dame. After learning about the program, he decided that he wanted join the squad and see just how fun football could be at the University. After transitioning from the Yale football program to the Notre Dame football program, Lager reflected on the difference between being in an FCS program at Yale versus the FBS program at Notre Dame. He emphasized the change in intensity and in the level of commitment that people had for the football program coming into Notre Dame. “Here there is so many support staff, so many people that want to help you and want the team to succeed and it’s just great to take advantage and be thankful for all those

resources,” Lager said. Lager is in the ten month Master of Science Management program at Notre Dame and plans to graduate in May of 2020. Due to the nature of the program, he started at Notre Dame in the summer and talked about how welcoming the other guys on the team were this summer and how they would ask him to hang out and spend time with them. He went on to mention his highlight of playing football at Notre Dame. “Just the whole experience of it,” Lager said. “The entire school really cares and shows a lot of love for the football team which we love to see and hear. It’s just been great to be a part of a community like Notre Dame that cares so much about football. And to put on the gold helmet is something I think a lot of college football players dream of and I just get to live it out every day.” Looking into the future, Lager is looking forward to classes next semester and graduating, but says that it will be bittersweet since he will miss football and being around

all of his teammates so often. But, even when he leaves Notre Dame, he knows he will take the many lessons he learned here with him, especially the no excuse mentality. “Anything I ever approach

whether it’s my job, whether it’s my relationship with some person or anything really, it’s no excuses,” he said. Contact Cassandra Miller at

annie smierciak | The Observer

Irish graduate student tight end John Lager watches Notre Dame’s 5220 victory over Navy on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

xavier lezynski | te | newtown, pennsylvania

Lezynski was destined to be part of Irish team By NATE MOLLER Sports Writer

Xavier Lezynski has a long list of family members who have played for Notre Dame football and attended the University — including his great-grandfather who played under Knute Rockne, his uncle who was on the 1977 National Championship team, his parents who were both Irish student-athletes and two other uncles. Most recently, his sister was a cheerleader, his brother Nick was a football walk-on from 2008-2011 (and a current defensive graduate assistant for the team), and his brother Blaise played baseball at Notre Dame from 2011-2015. Having nearly his whole family come here made Notre Dame the obvious choice for Lezynski. “Ever since I was a little kid, this is where I wanted to be,” Lezynski said. “I wanted to come to Notre Dame and play football. There was no other choice for me. I grew up loving Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the perfect university for me, in my opinion. My upbringing definitely influenced me, and all my experiences here growing up definitely led me here.” Lezynski plays tight end, resided in Sorin Hall and is majoring in sociology. The Newtown, Penn., native has many fond memories of attending Notre Dame football

games as a kid. His most notable memory was in 2010 against Pittsburgh, when his brother Nick got into the game for the first time. “It was a very memorable experience for him,” Lezynski said. “I actually remember being in the stands and looking out and seeing #42, and thinking I must be seeing things, but it ended up being Nick out there. I remember my family and I were overcome with emotion and joy because I know how hard he worked.” He also idolized former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn as a kid. “[Quinn] was another major reason I had a deep affinity for Notre Dame football,” Lezynski said. Lezynski walked onto the team spring of his sophomore year. He said his teammates helped him adjust to the new workload between school and football. “It was my teammates who kept pushing me and wanted me to be a part of this,” Lezynski said. “I met some of my best friends for life through Notre Dame football, and being able to be a part of such special seasons with these guys has made it so much more special. I think I have earned the respect of my teammates, and I have had great times with those guys. Day in and day out it’s a grind, but we

do it together, and that’s probably what’s most special for me.” Lezynski’s most memorable moment was when he came onto the field against Bowling Green this year and got a chance to play in his first game. “I got in towards the end of the game, and I remember after I had gotten in for a couple of snaps, I walked over to the sideline and my brother Nick was waiting for me,” Lezynski said. “I ran over there and he embraced me, and after that we did the Alma Mater together, and that was very emotional for both of us because it was the culmination of our dreams. We grew up loving Notre Dame football and to be able to share that experience with him right there was indescribable. That was the best moment I have ever had.” While Lezynski hopes to come back for a fifth year next year, he can see himself pursuing a profession in college sports following graduation. “I would love to be a part of college athletic administration or recruiting in the future,” he said. “Before I walked on, I had the opportunity to work in the recruiting office, and that was a really positive experience for me. I think that has shaped what I want to do for a profession.” Lezynski has also had an impact on his community in Sorin

allison thornton | The Observer

Irish senior tight end Xavier Lezynski guards a punt during the Blue-Gold game on April 13 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Hall during his time here. “I implemented something called ‘Mass and Cheese,’ where after our Thursday Masses at Sorin we have mac ‘n’ cheese afterwards,” Lezynski said. “I created this with some of my friends, and we prepared mac ’n’ cheese and used it to create camaraderie within the dorm.” In continuation of his family’s legacy of excellence at the University, Lezynski has made

an impact both on the team and Notre Dame community since walking on his sophomore year — and he only plans to continue doing so. “My dream job is to be the athletic director here,” Lezynski said. “I love this place, and to be able to stick around here would be awesome.” Contact Nate Moller at

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


javon mckinley | wr | corona, california

McKinley overcomes setbacks to find success By GRANT DelVECCHIO Sports Writer

Heading into this season, senior wide receiver Javon McKinley had much to prove. McKinley was recruited to Notre Dame as one of the most prolific wideouts in the country out of Centennial High School but the Corona, California native faced significant setbacks as he began his time in blue and gold. Despite facing such adversity, Irish wide receivers coach Del Alexander spoke highly of McKinley’s development as this season approached. “I think he’s done things from the ground up,” coach Alexander said in regards to McKinley’s improvement throughout the spring and summer in an article by Fighting Irish Wire. “I think that there’s a part of him where he improved on his demeanor, he improved on his communication, the look in his eye, his walk down the hallway and his attention to detail in the meeting is totally different. You respect that because he’s seen his setbacks, but now he’s in the position to help us.” For McKinley, football has been a constant in his life from a young age. “I started playing football when I was six years old, I played flag and from there on. I just kind of worked my way out from center because I was a bigger kid and then guard, tackle, and finally receiver,” McKinley said. “I finally realized my junior year in high school that I

was good enough of a player to play at the next level, and I was big on academics and football of course, and I chose Notre Dame in the end as my place to go.” McKinley stressed that the education is what sold him to the University. “A lot of it was the academics at Notre Dame. I feel like a lot of teams across the country are really good, Notre Dame especially is one of them, but Notre Dame definitely separates themselves as a combination with academics and athletics and that’s something I really wanted to get into, and that’s why I chose it.” As a freshman, McKinley and the Irish went through a disappointing 4-8 season, and the receiver credits much of that failure to a lack of a team identity. “We didn’t have an identity, I believe, my freshman year, it was just kind of like ‘Oh we got a game this week, oh we got a game this week’ like whatever, and then after Coach Kelly brought in the new staff, and especially Coach Balis and his mindset turning around the whole program,” McKinley said. For McKinley, the results of the past two and a half years are a direct result of that change of mindset. “I think from there we finally found an identity of what we wanted to be for the season coming up and that turned into 10-3 the following year, 12-0 last year and then right now 8-2. So definitely a big turnaround,

I’m definitely proud of the team and especially my class and how we’ve grown.” The 6-foot-2 star athlete suffered a season-ending broken leg injury toward the end of his freshman year that forced him to sit out his entire sophomore season. Afterward, McKinley struggled to get onto the field and find his role on the depth chart. Then this past February, McKinley’s name was in the headlines again after being arrested due to an incident with campus police officers. Since McKinley’s record was clean, he made the necessary retributions and then was able to get a second chance. McKinley attributes much of his success to the leadership of his parents. He also had some keen reflections on his college experience. “College definitely has taught me a lot since the day I got here, school wise, athletically, and then just being a good person on and off the field. I feel like college is definitely a place to learn more about yourself, what your interests are, and what you want to do with your life,” McKinley said. Despite the adversity he’s faced at times, McKinley reiterated that he has no regrets about picking the Irish four years ago. “And definitely along with college, football and that side you learn a lot with managing your time, and how to be productive during this amount of time, and focusing on something else the next amount of time, and that’s just the special


Javon McKinley stiff arms a defender during the Bowling Green game on Oct. 5 at home. McKinley broke multiple tackles en route to a 25-yard touchdown during the game.

combination you can get at Notre Dame, and I’m really glad I chose to come here,” he said. McKinley also had some great role models on the field that he was able to look up to as a young player. “One definitely was Torii Hunter Jr., my freshman year he was just like the “old head” like the dad for the receivers he always would talk to the receivers and just tell us how to be mentally off the field when things aren’t going your way how you should react,” McKinley said. “Another guy was CJ Sanders, who is a grad transfer and went somewhere else, but him same thing, just how to carry yourself and how to see the good in the situation, take advantage of the opportunities that are given to you and I just capitalized on that and waited for the opportunities to be given to me and just had to capitalize.” This season, McKinley has made a jump to the next level. He currently has 11 catches for 268 yards and four scores. His four touchdowns are the third most out of the receivers and the 268 yards are fourth best on the team. With two games still yet to play, McKinley is still looking for more. McKinley’s best career memory at Notre Dame was his first touchdown catch, which was nothing short of spectacular and played out exactly as he imagined it would, evading multiple tackles to find the end zone. The touchdown was one of two that McKinley scored in this season’s home opening

rout of New Mexico. “Mine would probably be my first touchdown. I always like replay it to myself, just in the game doing everything I can right, and I always thought ‘I wonder if I could score in front of the student section for my first touchdown’, and it ended up working that way so that’s definitely my best memory here,” Javon McKinley Outside of football, you can find Javon at the alley working on his craft. “I like bowling. Me and my friend, we both have like a little rivalry going on with bowling on who can be better every time we play,” he said. “So, off time during the spring when I have more time with practice, both of us individually when we go home we’ll have a little competition, a little betting game on who can get the higher score.” As of right now, McKinley is still undecided about the future. While he can graduate after this year, he also has a year of eligibility left if he wants to come back. For the Irish, McKinley’s experiences both on and off the field are invaluable in terms of being able to coach the young guys just as he was coached as a young guy himself. In the end, McKinley summed up his Notre Dame experience quite effectively — “The biggest takeaway from my Notre Dame experience: how to work hard, how to carry yourself, how to be a good person to other people.” Contact Grant DelVecchio at


Irish senior wide receiver Javon McKinley cuts right in his route during Notre Dame’s 52-0 victory over Bowling Green on Oct. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium.



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

adetokunbo Ogundeji | DL | West Bloomfield, michigan

Ogundeji credits team with personal maturation By CONNOR MULVENA Sports Editor

Adetokunbo Ogundeji, a senior defensive lineman hailing from West Bloomfield, Michigan, finds himself at the tail end of his Notre Dame football career. But for Ogundeji, the fruits of the journey are found on more than just the stat sheet. The senior, who tallied 22 total tackles, appeared in all 13 games and forcing a key fumble against Florida State during the squad’s last home game of the season last year, speaks quite highly of Notre Dame, especially of the people who’ve helped him along the way. He may not have had a plethora of offers from big time programs in high school, but Ogundeji said he was entranced by Notre Dame from the beginning. “I think it’s just when it comes down to the tradition — football and academics — it has it all here,” Ogundeji said. “I feel like some schools might have football, or academics, with no tradition, but this school has it all. And when you come here, you know you’re coming to a special place. … You’re coming to a school that has so much tradition, so much pride for itself. That’s what it comes down to — I feel like no other school could have all three of those.” To receive an offer from

Notre Dame at all is an impressive feat, especially considering Ogundeji started playing football later than the average Division I competitor. He admitted that, at first, he certainly wasn’t the best on the field. “I started playing football in eight grade … I played offensive line, so I pretty much was trash,” Ogundeji said. “And then in high school, I decided to try it one more time, and I had a really good group of guys around me; so that’s when I started to actually love playing football. From there on, it just took off from there. I got an offer here at Notre Dame going into my senior year, and I just couldn’t pick any other school.” Ogundeji was quick to admit he had to make tough adjustments along the way, most notably adjusting to the busy student-athlete life his freshman year. “I had to get used to playing at a level like this,” Ogundeji said. “But [also] understanding how to organize yourself with school, with football, with all that, social life. It definitely was a struggle for me in the first year. But then, as the years went by, I learned how to balance my life, really understand how to balance football and school.” Along the way, Ogundeji said he made many friends, but he did mention a few names who

specifically helped him the most. “I would say [senior safety] Chris [Schilling] and [senior offensive lineman] Arion [Shinaver]— they were my roommates, I’ve known them since freshman year,” Ogundeji said. “[Senior defensive lineman] Khalid [Kareem], I’ve known him since before high school. [Senior defensive lineman] Daelin [Hayes] I’ve also known since before high school, so those guys have been my buddies, for life. [Senior defensive linemen] Julian [Okwara], he’s always been there for me and Jamir [Jones], pretty much all of the defensive ends. … Pretty much everybody, I would go down the whole list, but those guys have definitely been great.” When asked for his favorite memories, Ogundeji pointed to the USC victory last year, which capped the squad’s undefeated regular season. He said the whole process at Notre Dame has been something he’ll look back on as a great memory. “I would definitely say during the games when we do the alma mater and that stuff, you don’t really see that with a lot of other teams,” Ogundeji said. “So I think that’s definitely a moment I will always remember. I’ll always remember last year we played USC, that was a big accomplishment not just for our football team but for the whole school, so that was a big thing. You know, I feel like this whole process has kind of been just one great big moment for me.” In the end, Ogundeji said Notre Dame has changed him for the better, and he views the process as one of great maturation. “I think Notre Dame has just definitely turned me into a better man. I would say it taught me just to be more detailed, just learning a lot of new things,” he said. “I feel like one thing I’ve learned throughout this whole process is that it’s not going to be easy, but you learn a lot of things — from football, school — I can tell you a million things I’ve learned from Notre Dame that I would have never learned outside of here. And just being with people, just being more of an open person. When I first came here, I feel like I was a little shy, you know, you’re coming to a school you don’t know, and I’m out of state, so it’s kind of different, but just all the people here were great.”

Zachary yim | The Observer

Irish senior defensive lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji dives for a tackle during Notre Dame’s 38-7 win over Duke on Nov. 9.

Logan plantz | OL | FRANKfort, illinois

Plantz mirrors story of ‘Rudy’ By JIMMY WARD Sports Writer

Graduate student Logan Platz is the second coming of “Rudy.” He walked on to the football team as an offensive lineman in January of 2016 after transferring from Holy Cross. Plantz was also a member of the rugby team his freshman year and additionally won Bengal Bouts. Luckily for the other members of the men’s boxing club, the 6-feet2, 292 pounder has not made a return to the tournament since claiming his title. History is important for him as well, Plantz said, as he comes from a long lineage of Notre Dame football. His father Ron graduated from the University in 1986, and his older brother Tyler walked onto the team as a running back and graduated in 2014 and now serves as a special teams analyst under Brian Polian. “Having two great role models kind of portrayed what Notre Dame meant, especially being a part of representing the greatest university in the world,” Plantz said. “Wearing the gold helmets — nothing will ever surpass that feeling, the pressure, the emotions, the integrity that it holds.” Plantz said he is thankful for each and every day he gets to spend with the squad and will always remember their times together. “Just every day; every day can be a highlight,” Plantz said. “Just being a part of this. Growing up dreaming of being at Notre Dame, it’s one of those things — every day is a highlight.” Plantz received offers to go to other schools, but he decided to follow in the footsteps of his brother and his father, rejecting those

offers and transferring into Notre Dame from Holy Cross. “Notre Dame is where I wanted to be, seeing how much of a great, powerful and amazing institution this is and what it does and truly holds,” he said. “Everybody always spoke about what Notre Dame is about, and I never really had a true taste for it, but I had a pretty good sense. I realized I wanted to be able to understand what this university is and what it is about. So I set my mind up, fulfilling my lifelong dream as a child as being a part of the world’s greatest university and the world’s greatest football team. I took an adverse path of a post-graduate year out of high school and going to Holy Cross for two semesters and achieving academic success to fulfill entering this university.” Plantz said he credits his brother and father for his growth and development as a player at Notre Dame. “Especially with my dad but even with my brother, Tyler,” he said. “Day in and day out, I have his guidance, and I have his hope. He is always there to turn back on and seek advice and motivation and give me a daily check of where I am and what I am doing. I never take a day for granted.” As for his plans after this season, Plantz graduated in May 2018 with a degree in political science from the College of Arts and Letters. Although he will be seeking warmth after spending nearly five years enduring the cold winters of South Bend, he has a pretty “chill” job lined up ahead of him. “I’m heading down to Austin, Texas, to work for Yeti Coolers,” Plantz said of his future plans. Contact Jimmy Ward at

ann curtis | The Observer

Contact Connor Mulvena at

Irish graduate student offensive lineman Logan Plantz walks onto the field before Notre Dame’s 38-17 win over Stanford on Sept. 29, 2018.

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


Troy pride jr. | CB | greer, south carolina

Pride Jr. balances life as a two-sport athlete By DOMINIC GIBSON Sports Writer

zachary yim | The Observer

Irish senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. finishes a tackle during Notre Dame’s 21-20 victory over Virginia Tech at Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 2. Pride Jr. has 34 tackles this season to go along with an interception. Paid Advertisement

In all four years of his career, cornerback Troy Pride Jr. has been a pivotal member of the Irish football team and their defensive core. Since arriving on campus, Pride Jr. has made his presence felt, being one of 10 true freshmen during the 2016 season to play in at least eight games. But for Pride Jr. it has not been a simple and smooth ride, playing all four years of his career for the Irish. “I mean it’s been hard. Nothing in life is easy,” Pride Jr. said. “But it’s the transformation. It’s just being one guy when you first get here and then transforming into another guy through offseason workouts, through film study, through being more sav v y in the game. I’m happy to where I’ve come.” It is well known and documented that Notre Dame is among the most storied and traditional football programs in the nation, producing several Heisman winners and great talented football players, and winning 13 recognized national championships. A chance to follow those great players and for a chance to be a part of tradition and histor y was a big draw for Pride Jr. “The tradition. The rich heritage that Notre Dame has. The preaching of family and the finding out that this is truly a family,” Pride Jr. said. “W hat it means to play here is that you’re following greats. I remember specifically watching Manti Teo, who wore that number five, and ball out and take Notre Dame to the national championship and I had aspirations to do that myself. Obviously, I get a chance to wear the number five and so many greats have donned the number before me and it’s just an amazing experience.” W hile Tony Pride Jr. has played in many games over his four years, he keeps several highlights of his career in high regard, even some of the undesirable ones. “Well I have some bad memories for sure that I always keep and always carr y with me,” Pride Jr. said. “But some of the good moments was my first interception against Nav y in 2017, the playoff game against Clemson, the 12-0 win against USC, and I’m sure this Senior Night will be the next one. Those are some pretty big ones in my vault.” It is ver y rare for specialized athletes to participate in more than one sport. It often times takes a ver y committed

and driven individual to do that. Even so, Pride Jr. has been able to withstand the challenges that come with not only being a member of the football team, but also a member of the Notre Dame track team as a sprinter. “It’s ver y difficult. Not ver y many people talk about it but I was waking up at 6 a.m. for workouts, going to class for three hours, and then going to track practice for three hours, and finishing by day at 8 or 9” Pride Jr. said. “I barely saw the sunlight sometimes. It was hard and it was a grind, but it definitely allowed me to be more mentally tough. Obviously, physically it made me better and I just pride myself in doing it because I know a lot of people couldn’t.” For Pride Jr., it is his teammates that have helped him stay committed and driven during his career. “My teammates have been instrumental in me wanting to continue to go hard for them, never letting them down, and just being stable and solid for them,” Pride Jr. said. It is those same teammates and friends that Pride Jr. has found that have had the biggest impact on his time at the University. “Probably some of my best friends, [senior safeties] Jalen Elliott [and] Alohi Gilman, [senior cornerback] Donte Vaughn [and New York Giants cornerback] Julian Love for sure,” Pride Jr. said. “Just some amazing people that I’ve had the opportunity to meet. Those are lifetime friends for me, and I wouldn’t be here without them. All the memories that we have are going to go with me forever.” W hile Troy Pride Jr.’s time comes to a close at Notre Dame, the senior cornerback is hoping to take his talents to the next level in the pros or perhaps utilize his Film, television and theater major for a potential occupation choice in the future. “Well I’m praying for a long and successful NFL career, but I know for a fact that the connection that Notre Dame has set me up to have a path in film, television and theater through either being broadcasting, or just sports marketing or sports media,” Pride Jr. said. “But I plan to obviously train for the NFL Draft and NFL Combine, Senior Bowl invite. All of that will come soon but you only take one step at a time. I have large goals for myself but right now we just got Boston College.” Contact Dominic Gibson at



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

trevor ruhland | ol | cary, illinois

Ruhland blocks out noise, overcomes adversity By AIDAN THOMAS Sports Writer

Asked about his favorite memory with Notre Dame football, Trevor Ruhland pauses before recalling his second career start for the Irish. The offensive lineman was a senior and his 5-0 Notre Dame squad was playing at Virginia Tech, a hostile environment that was amped up at the possibility of ending Notre Dame’s unbeaten run. “I loved getting booed when we run out, and then the stadium is empty at the end of the game,” Ruhland said. “We beat them pretty well — it was really cool.” There’s a lot of players who enjoy playing in a raucous setting, but it is particularly fitting given how much Ruhland enjoyed overcoming adversity in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ruhland’s entire footall career has been full of adversity, and he has triumphed every time. This Saturday, Ruhland will play in his 30th game with the Irish, an impressive total for the amount of injuries he has sustained. Ruhland has been victimized by a trio of knee surgeries, a broken elbow, broken nose, a broken ankle, torn pecs and a torn labrum.

“It’s been really hard,” Ruhland said. “There’s been days where you wake up and you’re like ‘why am I doing this. But in the end, it makes it all worth this and I wouldn’t change anything.” Ruhland was one of 10 scholarship freshman on the roster when he enrolled in Notre Dame, but heading to South Bend had not been his initial plan. “I didn’t necessarily grow up a Notre Dame fan,” Ruhland said. “Both my parents went to Iowa. But that didn’t work out, so I was kind of browsing around. This is just two hours from home [Cary, Illinois], and I thought it was a great chance to mix academics and football.” Ruhland spent his freshman year on scout team before playing 14 games the next two seasons as a reserve offensive linemen. His senior year, he became a starter during Notre Dame’s run to the College Football Playoffs, and he has continued to excel in that role this year, anchoring an offensive line which ranks 15th in the country with just 13 sacks allowed. Ruhland has been a warrior on the gridiron, but he immersed himself in Notre Dame’s intense academic culture and embraced the school’s distinct dorm life.

Now a graduate student, Ruhland finished his undergraduate career last spring as a management consulting major. “I wanted to do business, and I thought this encompassed my skills which are speaking in public, doing presentations, and stuff like that,” Ruhland said. One way to get away from the academic and athletic grind at Notre Dame was to embrace the community service that the football team does each year — something Ruhland has done wholeheartedly. “One of my favorite things we do is called ‘Shop with a Player,’” Ruhland said. “Each player gets paired with a little kid and we go shopping with them. We give them like $200 to get their Christmas gifts. You expect them to be like, ‘I want this toy and that toy’ but honestly they’re more like ‘I want to get this for my brother, that for my mom.’ It’s really cool, it’s one of the best things we do here.” In his time not spent in the classroom or with the football team, Ruhland thoroughly enjoyed Notre Dame’s dorm culture, having spent his time on campus in Siegfried Hall. “Shoutout to the Ramblers, ramble on,” Ruhland said. “I had

a really good group of friends in Siegfried Hall. It was so good to leave football and go play video games and get away from all the noise.” Ruhland may enjoy his down time away from the noise, but

when that noise and adversity comes back, he has proven time and time again he won’t back down — just ask Virginia Tech. Contact Aidan Thomas at

Observer File Photo

Graduate student offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland takes the field during Notre Dame’s 56-27 win over Wake Forest on Sept. 22, 2018.

chris schilling | S | overland park, kansas

For Schilling, coming to ND a family affair By CONNOR MULVENA Sports Editor

For senior safety Chris Schilling, Notre Dame football seemed written in the stars. Coming from a family with a long history at Notre Dame, the Overland Park, Kansas native dreamed of playing for the Irish in high school. He watched the games every week, knowing every player on the team, and then, all of the sudden, he found himself among those guys on TV. The senior said that being thrust into that environment was a surreal experience. “I was a cradle Irish,” he said. “My parents went here, and Grotto proposal and Basilica wedding and the whole deal. I’m actually the fourth one in my family to go here, as far as my siblings go, so I’ve always wanted to play at Notre Dame, and that was a goal of mine. You know, when I started high school, I wanted to play here, so it was nice to realize that. “It was cool because you grow up being a Notre Dame fan, and then you know, throughout high school you’re still watching the games every weekend, and you know who the guys are on the team. And then you’re put into a locker room with them and it becomes normal. So that was kind of interesting. Something that I put on a pedestal just became normalized pretty fast, which was fun.”

For Schilling, that football journey started at a fairly young age, and, in large part, he credits his older brother who played football at the University of Kansas, as motivation for sticking with the game. “I didn’t start playing tackle football until fifth grade,” he said. “I have a brother who’s nine years older than me and played football at Kansas, so that kind of got me into it and kept me going. Through high school he’d mentor for me. So, I’ve played since fifth grade, really loved it, and at that point, that became my favorite sport since I started focusing more near the end of high school football. And I had a chance to come here, which has been perfect, and will be an end to my football career.” Although it may be the end of his football career, Schilling said he will still have vivid memories of his Notre Dame football career when it is long in the past. The senior pointed to Notre Dame’s 49-14 victory over USC in his sophomore year and the feeling of running out of the tunnel when asked about his favorite memories. “There’s really no better feeling than just running out of the tunnel, especially the first few times. That was a big step for me, and it was pretty exciting. But you know, just being able to work with the team, and I’ve been a defensive signaler for the last three years, so just having a role within the

defense and traveling to all the games. It’s pretty cool the way that we do it — it’s first class, and it’s a pretty cool deal,” he said. Schilling recalled his sophomore year with fondness. “My sophomore year when we beat USC 49-14, that was just an awesome game,” he said. “To dominate USC like that, you love to do that. This year was fun too, kind of a scrappy game, and getting in the scuffle and all that. It was fun, it’s part of the tradition of the rivalry.” Looking back on his time at Notre Dame, Schilling said that what makes the program special in the scope of college football is the kind of player it attracts, and consequently the kind of environment it creates. “What we do here is so much different than other big programs,” he said. “You see guys from other big schools talking about how they haven’t set foot on campus yet because they’re in online classes. But, there’s no where else that demands so much of you academically and so much athletically, that you just kind of attract a different kind of guy. And it creates an awesome locker room, with guys that I’m going to stay with forever. That’s what sets Notre Dame apart — we get really good talent, but we also get talent that knows what it is to be a good student and be well rounded.” As far as the future, Schilling

said he will be entering the field of wealth management. “I’m going to start in San Francisco next summer,” he said. “I’m doing wealth management for a company called ICONIQ Capital. Really cool company. I’m going to be managing the wealth of some of the Silicon Valley csuite guys — Mark Zuckerberg is a

client — and you know, these different big tech companies. They IPO, and their founders go from having not that much money to being super wealthy. That will be a really cool experience, and I’m excited to do that.” Contact Connor Mulvena at

ann curtis | The Observer

Irish senior safety Christopher Schilling jogs onto the field prior to Notre Dame’s 36-3 victory over Syracuse on Nov. 17, 2018.

Insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer


john shannon | LS | lake forest, illinois

Shannon fulfils lifelong dream in playing for Irish By GRACE McDERMOTT Sports Writer

John Shannon has Notre Dame football in his blood. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Shannon — who wears number 54 on the field — always expected to play for the Irish. Both his father Gerard and his grandfather Dan, class of ’55, were on the football team during their times on campus, making Shannon the third generation in his family to wear the gold helmet at Notre Dame Stadium. “It’s been always a dream of mine to play here,” said Shannon. “I always had it in the back of my mind during the recruiting process. It’s something really special, and it means a lot to people, especially at this school.” The former Knott Hall resident, widely considered the top long snapper in his recruiting class, is Notre Dame’s starting long snapper

and only the second of his position recruited during the Brian Kelly era. Though he didn’t see any game action his freshman year, he has played in every game since the beginning of his sophomore season through the end of his senior year. His snapping consistency on field goals, extra points and punts helped lead the Irish to its undefeated season last year, as well as supporting Notre Dame’s all-time high scorer: kicker Justin Yoon, who graduated this year. He also added several tackles on special teams. Shannon said Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season in 2018 was a huge highlight for him — especially the road game against USC that clinched Notre Dame’s spot in the playoffs. “An undefeated season was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for people who play sports. It’s something you strive for,” Shannon said.

“Even though the playoffs didn’t end well, getting there was really cool. At USC, when we sealed the deal, we had prepared really well, and it was good to know we controlled our own destiny.” Shannon, a graduate of Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., is finishing up a major in economics. The 6’2” senior said he plans to return to Chicago after graduation to join the police department. He values the educational opportunities that Notre Dame has afforded him during his four years here. “It’s a different school to play at in terms of the academics,” Shannon said. “Being able to say you’re a graduate here, especially with a major that’s more challenging, it’s definitely something to be proud of that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.” ANN CURtis | The Observer

Contact Grace McDermott at Paid Advertisement

Irish senior long snapper John Shannon walks off the field after a play during Notre Dame’s 38-17 win over Stanford on Sept. 29. 2018.



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |

arion shinaver | wr | carmel, indiana

Shinaver talks setbacks, gratitude as walk-on By MARIAH RUSH Sports Writer

Arion Shinaver’s dad was the one to email Notre Dame his film from high school, but he didn’t know that at the time. He would later be accepted into the University, then accepted as a preferred walk-on to the football team. Shinaver said he’s had a fondness for Notre Dame since he was a kid. His dad, an ’87 alumnus, would watch games with his friends. “I grew up watching the USCNotre Dame games and the classic Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry when I was a kid,” Shinaver said. “I saw how excited my dad and his friends were, and I didn’t really understand it, but it was something that drew me to it.” At first, Shinaver’s mom — as any mother would be — was hesitant about his dedication to football. But then, she came around to the idea. “[My mom] liked the whole idea of football to get me into a better school. I talked to Yale, Harvard and Brown a lot when I was a sophomore,” Shinaver said. “Then I blew out my knee, and lost recruiting interests, and then junior year I picked up again. I started talking to

Notre Dame, and it kind of seemed like a long shot, but maybe I would get preferred walk-on. Then the Ivy League interest came back with Harvard, Yale and Brown with preferred walk-ons.” That’s when Shinaver’s dad sent in his films. The rest is history. “[I told him] it’s not worth their time,” Shinaver said, looking back on his admissions process. Not everything was smooth sailing once he got to campus. Shinaver said he spent freshman and sophomore year on the offensive scout team hoping to “get a shot.” Although he played against USC his sophomore year, he was supposed to get more playing time in the fall of his junior year — at least, until he was injured. “I also had two concussions in that season, so I had a concussion in the second week of the season, and I was out for six weeks. Then I came back and I was a little nervous about it, and then I got another concussion. So the whole junior season, which was the most opportunity I was going to have, was kind of taken away from me,” Shinaver said. But since then Shinaver has listen to his doctors, who have assured him he should be good to play this season, leading to the

wide receiver being “in the mix” more during games. Shinaver, a finance major planning to go into consulting next year, said it has been tough balancing school with football, especially with the concussions from his junior year. “My parents have always pushed school first,” he said. “ … When it comes down to it, you have your own destiny in your hands, and you can make the most of it. I’ve chosen here in college to put myself through a really difficult major, and with football it’s very difficult, and I think I’ll be better for that. So it’s just keeping a commitment to myself that this is this is going to pay off in the long run. That’s how I get through it.” He cites Chris Finke and Chase Claypool as two of his best friends on the team, and says he loves Notre Dame’s competitive atmosphere. “I love how every single day is so competitive, and it’s like we’re competing with our best friends, especially here at Notre Dame,” Shinaver said. “So being able to know that a huge part of my day, every day, is going in competing at the highest level in one of the best programs in the nation is so exciting and fun, and it feels like I pushed myself every single day for

the last four years.” Shinaver said it’s important to keep in mind that anyone can make a difference in someone’s life. “You don’t really know how big an impact you have on the people around you,” Shinaver said. “They make it really clear here that everything we do is under a microscope,

but also we can do things that might seem small to us but can make someone’s day — or make it so you can make someone’s year. And that’s really been a neat opportunity.” Contact Mariah Rush at


Irish senior wide receiver Arion Shinaver lines up for a play during Notre Dame’s 52-20 win over Navy on Saturday at home.

donte vaughn | cb | memphis, tennessee

Vaughn: quarterback turned cornerback By GRANT DelVECCHIO Sports Writer

Notre Dame senior cornerback Donte Vaughn wasn’t always on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, the Memphis, Tennessee native played quarterback all the way up until his sophomore year of high school. “I kept going, I got into high school, I won state my ninth-grade year. I was playing quarterback at the time. Then, my tenth-grade year, my coach he told me ‘I think you should play cornerback,’ because I was tall. He thought I would make a better cornerback than a quarterback.” Vaughn said. “He guaranteed me that ‘If you switch your tenth-grade year, you’d have like three or four offers after your tenth-grade year. So I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to switch’, and I ended up with five offers after my tenth grade year. I still thank him to this day, his name is Coach Harmon.” Vaughn has appeared in games every season since arriving to Notre Dame, and is currently a main stay in the corner rotation this season with 13 total tackles. Vaughn’s first experience with Notre Dame didn’t quite go as planned. “It’s crazy because the practice that [Notre Dame] came to, our pads had gotten stolen and I couldn’t practice for them so I told them, ‘Yeah, coach I can’t practice

because our pads got stolen’. And to see the look on their faces like, ‘What? I’ve never heard that before.’ It’s crazy because I didn’t know anything about [Notre Dame] before my eleventh-grade year, I didn’t know anything at all,” Vaughn said. “So, when they came I was like ‘Woah’ and I just started doing my research about the school and I saw that this is a special place. I ended up taking a visit around springtime that year, I came here and I was like ‘This is the place to be,’” he said. Growing up, Vaughn’s father is the person he idolized the most, and arguably the main reason why he is where he’s at today. “I’ve seen my pops almost homeless; he was riding his bike to come to see me play. He was coming from downtown to my school on a bike and I’d see him,” Vaughn said. “But he never gave up, he always showed us the love a father is supposed to. I would say probably my freshman year, he ended up getting a job at Tesla. I was so proud of him. I was like man, if he can stick through all of that; like his mom had passed away, he was homeless, and I was like if he can go through all of that, I can do this school stuff … because he had to go through real life stuff. So I looked up to him, I looked up to him a lot.” Vaughn has dealt with his own adversity since arriving on campus, most notably in terms of

battling through injuries throughout his football career. “Sophomore year I got some injuries. … I was going through adversity and stuff … I found out yeah man, I’m torn up right now, my shoulder, I broke my hand and I’m going through all of that at one time, and I’m not up there yet,” Vaughn said. Despite the challenges he’s faced to get to this point, this senior season marks a major step for Vaughn. “I was able to pull off a solid senior season so I’m proud of that, and I’m just proud to be graduating from the University of Notre Dame. All my people back home are proud of me, I’m just happy to make them proud,” Vaughn said. Vaughn went on to say that his experiences here will prepare him later in life. “You’re going to face adversity and it’s all about how you respond. Every time I got hurt, I was like ‘How can I take a positive out of this, I might be hurt but I’m at Notre Dame,” Vaughn said. “I play for Notre Dame so when I’m back healthy, I’m going to embrace the fact that I’m at this school and it’s going to keep pushing me to be better.” Vaughn’s key takeaways from his time spent under the dome have been mostly mental. “Being patient and just being confident in myself and my abilities. Just along with that, my time is coming, just being patient and

continuing to keep grinding it out, that’s all I have to do here, keep on pushing,” Vaughn said. “You’re going to get knocked around, you’re going to get kicked down, but at the end of the day you’ve got to stand on your ten toes and keep fighting, that’s what I’ve learned.” Off of the field, as a keen observer would notice, Vaughn is interested in fashion and design. “I’m a big fashion guy. I like to design clothes and stuff like that,

if I’m not doing stuff [for football], I’m designing clothes. That’s what I like to do,” Vaughn said. Moving forward, Vaughn plans to pursue a career in the NFL, but if football doesn’t end up working out, he mentioned that he is starting his own clothing line so he’s going to “push that too.” The name of the clothing brand is Don Croire. Contact Grant DelVecchio at

zachary yim | The Observer

Irish senior cornerback Donte Vaughn tries to break up a pass during Notre Dame’s 21-20 victor against Virginia Tech on Oct. 6.

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer



Let’s be honest: program needs work to be elite Connor Mulvena Sports Editor

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about Notre Dame’s football program after the Irish were embarrassed in Ann Arbor. Admittedly, it was an intense reaction to what I thought, and still think, is a telling loss, but I stand by the heart of its message nonetheless. In the days following the column’s publication, I received a great deal of feedback, the most I’ve ever received on a piece I’ve written. The feedback was of two camps: those who fervently agreed and those who angrily rebuked my “outrageous” opinion. To say the least, the rebuke greatly outweighed the support. But I appreciate all of the feedback, especially the cries of outrage. It’s encouraging to know that people will interact with my opinions, and to be quite honest, the angry mob brought a little bit of excitement to my life during the bleak autumn of the otherwise beautiful Northwest Indiana. What else is there to do but read hate email when it’s dark at 4:00 p.m. and your favorite football team can barely beat Virginia Tech? Now, some things have changed since the Michigan loss. To be quite frank, I don’t think much has, but there are certainly some developments. I think Notre Dame’s rout of Navy was certainly a positive in that the Irish finally used their superior physicality to blow out a respectable but lessskilled opponent. It’s a small step in the right direction.

But much of what I said in that column still holds true. I don’t have a distinct direction in which I’d like to take this column, but in light of the feedback I received, I’d like to discuss some of the most common criticism I received. Let’s start off with the heart of the column itself. To me, the current standing of Notre Dame’s football program, in broad terms, essentially boils down to one question: How are we to reconcile the great history, tradition of excellence and historical success of Notre Dame football with its recent shortcomings? Now, you might say we don’t need to reconcile them at all. Notre Dame was once a football powerhouse, and no longer is. The perennial expectation is no longer a national championship. And that’s fine. That is a totally reasonable and practical outlook. Or, you might say, Notre Dame is still a college football powerhouse, synonymous with college football itself; and, since it has not won a national championship since 1988, it ought to make some changes to move things back in the direction of fulfilling that powerhouse image. That’s the camp that I’m in. But there is a third option, and it is the authority of this option which I intended to undermine in my column. That is those who say, on the one hand, Notre Dame is an elite college football powerhouse, in the league of the likes of Alabama and Ohio State; but, on the other hand, when Notre Dame loses to arch-rival Michigan by 30 or gets embarrassed in the College Football

Playoff, these same people say everything is okay, that no change is necessary. That is just untenable. You can’t claim to have the expectations that come with a powerhouse program and then urge the status quo when the reality is woefully short of such expectations. If you think the days of Notre Dame’s dominance are over, that it is a solid football program in an ever-competitive college football world, that is totally reasonable. You should be happy with a solid bowl game. I simply think that Notre Dame is still of the elite, and in order to remain there, it ought to make some changes. And I think everyone involved with Notre Dame football, including and especially the fans, ought to look in the mirror with brutal honesty to determine what the expectations are and how those ought to be met as we move on from another season without a chance at a national championship. But let’s get to the most popular criticism I received, which was in response to my claim that Notre Dame ought to part ways with Brian Kelly. This was by no means the main point of my column; instead, it was an extension of my primary argument, which I’ve stated above. In fact, I literally wrote three sentences of that column about firing Brian Kelly, one of which I use to commend Kelly for his work in digging Notre Dame out of the hole that was 2016. But it’s certainly fair that people reacted most strongly to this. Everyone loves a coaching controversy. I think Brian Kelly is a great football coach, among the best in the nation, but sometimes you

ANN CURTIS | The Observer

Irish sophomore wide receiver Braden Lenzy sprints toward the end zone after a catch during Notre Dame’s 52-20 win over Navy on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

part ways with great coaches, not because they’re not great coaches, but because it’s just time to part ways. It’s been 10 years. And if you think a championship is coming next year, or in the next five years, I’ve got a bridge to sell you if you’re interested. And please, let’s not pretend I authored this take. Paul Finebaum said it on the air the same week I wrote my column, and many others have said it even years ago. This isn’t new, and I admitted that. I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Kelly, who I think would probably even be able to land a job in the NFL. In 2017, the Yankees decided not to rehire Joe Girardi after they went 91-71 and lost in the ALCS. And this was after Girardi had brought the Yanks to four playoffs and lead them to a World Series title in 2009 during his tenure. Sometimes, it’s just time for a change. Lastly, I’ll address the other point people liked to cling on to: Ian Book. For this, I’d like to point to Kelly’s press conference after the win over Navy, in which he said, “I mean, if it’s Major League Baseball, [Book] had a little slump. I knew what he was capable of. We maintained confidence in him. The only thing I ever said to him is, ‘Don’t lose confidence in yourself. Stay confident in yourself’ He works so hard. He does all the right things. It was just a matter of, there was too much noise, and he had to find a mechanism as the quarterback at Notre Dame to eliminate all the noise that comes with. Has and found it and he’s in a great spot, and he’s going to continue to progress.” After I tweeted this out,

former editor-in-chief of The Observer Ben Padanilam, offered what I think is the perfect response, “Gotta love QBs who go on a 2-3 game slump in a 12game season.” I have no doubt Ian Book is a great leader, but in a world of college football, where every game is of the utmost importance, you can’t have “slumps.” You might have an off day, or an off quarter, but the best playmakers in college football make adjustments on the fly. And just as I said in regards to Kelly, this is not to say that Ian Book is a bad quarterback by any means. But it should be clear that he is not the type of quarterback who will lead you to a national championship, so why not give someone else a try? Would you rather know you’re going to go 10-2 or give someone else a shot and see how things can go for the future? I love Notre Dame football, more than any other team I root for. I think we should all be able to speak so frankly about these things because we care about them so much. If you disagree with those suggestions and the reasoning behind them, I encourage you to shoot me an email. But let’s please not pretend, for all of our sakes, that these changes are fantastical or outrageous. We can’t continue to look at the name and image that accompany Notre Dame football to ignore reality. Contact Connor Mulvena at The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

ann curtis | The Observer

Irish sophomore defensive lineman Ovie Oghoufo jumps to block a pass during Notre Dame’s 52-20 victory against Navy at home Saturday. He has eight tackles this year.



The observer | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 |


Irish recruiting turns to 2021, 2022 classes By JACK CONCANNON Sports Writer

As the Irish prepare to play host to the Boston College Eagles, they also hope to turn some of the players v isiting this weekend into future Irish commits. With the 2020 class mostly filled, the team has turned most of its attention to filling the 2021 and 2022 classes. Among the prospects v isiting this weekend is 2022 inside linebacker Tyler Martin from Cambridge, Massachusetts. For a detailed breakdow n on Martin and all things Notre Dame recruiting, Sports Illustrated’s Br yan Driskell spoke w ith The Obser ver about the team’s recruiting, and had high praise for Martin in advance of his v isit. “He’s a big kid, 6’3”, 230 pounds, ran well this summer. He’s a linebacker right now, but he has one of those big bodies,” Driskell said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s already that big, the way he moves you project for him to be an outside linebacker, defensive end kind of player. Michigan is considered the early favorite w ith him, but Notre Dame has been on him. They have not offered yet. If they were to offer, I think they could make some noise for him.” With Michigan being an early favorite for Martin, one has to wonder if the letdow n game the Irish played in Ann Arbor this year could affect his recruiting. W hile Driskell said it is not a certaint y it w ill hurt the Irish, he believes it can potentially be a factor. “I think it can matter. There’s some guys in the 2021 class that are looking at Notre Dame and Michigan like [defensive tack le] Rocco Spindler, [running back] Donovan Edwards, [offensive lineman] Garrett Dellinger — those are some talented players. If you’re a 50-50 kid and you’re not sure because you like Michigan in some areas and you like Notre Dame in other areas, that game is a thing that could sway you,” Driskell said. “For most kids, it’s not going to be the end-all-beall. I think if you’re a kid looking at both schools, it’s hard not to think, ‘Michigan can now play w ith the big teams.’” With that primetime game behind them, the Irish are seeking one more primetime game in the form of a New Year’s Six bowl berth. The way the college football landscape is shaping up, the

Irish w ill need tons of help to be eligible for the Cotton Bowl. Driskell pointed out that for a bowl to help w ith recruiting, w inning is more important than the bowl’s prestige. “It depends on whether or not you w in. If you go to the Cotton Bowl and you get beat, I don’t think that helps you as much as going to the Camping World Bowl and w inning. For example, go back and look at the 2014 season. You start the season 7-1, then lose the last four games. They go to the Motor Cit y Bowl against LSU and w in against Leonard Fournette and a prett y good LSU team. That gave them a lot of momentum because what recruits cared about wasn’t the name of the bowl, it was that they beat LSU,” Driskell said. “Then you fast for ward to 2017. You lose t wo of your last three games, go from No. 3 in the playoff rankings to out, then go to the Citrus Bowl and play LSU and w in. That’s a big w in.” Even if the Irish do make the Cotton Bowl, the likely opponent they w ill face is Memphis. The Tigers are a good team, the best of the group of five, but not a bigname marquee matchup that Irish fans and recruits would be particularly excited about. Driskell said from a recruiting perspective, a marquee matchup can be more beneficial than a prestigious bowl game. “If Notre Dame gets to the Cotton Bowl, they’re going to play Memphis. W hile it would be huge to w in the

Cotton Bowl, looking at it as far as impacting recruits you have to ask yourself, ‘W hat’s going to have a bigger impact on recruiting: w inning the Cotton Bowl over Memphis, or Notre Dame going to the Camping World Bowl and

play ing an Ok lahoma State or a Texas or a school w ith a bit more name recognition? ’ It’s more about who you beat and what your record is than the actual bowl.” Driskell said. “In a perfect world, if they could go to the Cotton Paid Advertisement

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Bowl and play Florida, Ok lahoma, Baylor or someone like that, that’s the ideal situation, but the odds are slim to none.” Contact Jack Concannon at

insider | friday, NOVEMBER 22, 2019 | The Observer



Addazio talks past, present of ND-BC rivalry By HAYDEN ADAMS Associate Sports Editor

Boston College head coach Steve Addazio addressed the media Monday in anticipation of the team’s upcoming matchup with Notre Dame. Addazio, once a member of Bob Davie’s Notre Dame staff as a position coach for the offensive tackles and tight ends from 1999-2001, had high praise for what the University stands for. “[I’m] excited about our game,” Addazio said. “We have great respect for the rivalry, the Boston College-Notre Dame rivalry, two schools that do it the right way, two schools that demonstrate Catholic values, Catholic education, faith, academics, and how important those all play together.” Addazio said having a history at Notre Dame has allowed him to see an inside look at both the Irish and Boston College programs and note the similarities between the two. “Just really appreciated my time when I was there and obviously very much appreciate my time here,” Addazio said. “Watching student-athletes that come to get an elite education, come to be able to grow in their faith, I think is one of the coolest things that’s in college athletics today.” In discussing the Irish (82), Addazio had high praise in terms of comparing them to the Eagles’ (5-5, 3-4 ACC) previous competition. “This is a team that’s very talented,” Addazio said. “They’re a top-20 offense and defense. We play two of those this year: Clemson and Notre Dame. I’ve watched certainly an extensive amount of tape on Notre Dame. I have a great deal of respect for Brian Kelly and what he’s accomplished there. They have a great staff, and they have a very, very, very outstanding football team.” Addazio also gave high marks to the completeness of the Irish offense. “They’ve got star power on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They’ve got a receiving corps that has got size and tremendous athleticism and speed; … a veteran running back; an outstanding offensive line; … a quarterback that I think is extremely mobile, throws [a] great deep ball and looks like he has total command of their offense; and, of course, an elite tight end. So I’m very, very impressed with Notre Dame on offense and their personnel.” Because of the Irish’s talents and the history surrounding the program, Addazio said his team has to remain focused and can’t allow themselves to

get swept away in the moment. “As I told our kids, you’ve got to have great preparation because you’ve got to go into that stadium with great confidence, and you’ve got to have a warrior mentality,” Addazio said. “When you go out into that tunnel and get ready to go on the field, it’s not easy to go beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame. … You’ve got to have great respect for them. You’ve got to go in there with great confidence and understand that you’re going to have to go the distance, four quarters, to beat that team on their home field.” At the same time, Addazio said the programs have a lot of shared history and the players should recognize the significance of the matchup. “I think it’s great for college football,” Addazio said. “I was there and played against BC. I think there’s a lot of similarities. I just think it lends itself to a natural rivalry kind of game. As I said in [my] opening statement, these are two programs that do it the right way. You’re talking about placing tremendous emphasis on academics and scholarship and faith and character and all those things that go into making these two Catholic institutions elite.” For the Eagles, the offense is ignited through junior running back AJ Dillon, who is in the midst of his third 1,000+ yard rushing season and currently third in the FBS with 1,451 rushing yards. Dillon, once a Notre Dame recruiting target, has an extra connection in this game, since his grandfather, Tom Gatewood, played for the Irish from 1969-71. Addazio said Dillon’s connections to the University will only enhance the atmosphere surrounding the game. “I think all of those are little subplots that go along with a lot of games, but especially in this game,” Addazio said. “There’s a lot there. I love all that. I think that’s what makes it great and fun [and] exciting. Here you are going into your 11th game, and there’s so much energy and excitement and so much to play for. It’s fun.” However, once all the fanfare is stripped away, Addazio said his team will go into Notre Dame Stadium and play their brand of football in hopes of gaining a marquee victory en route to bowl eligibility. “We’re a very proud program here at Boston College, and we’re going to go in there with great respect,” Addazio said. “And we’re going to fight and go in there and play hard.”

anna mason | The Observer

Irish junior linebacker Drew White engages with a lineman during Notre Dame’s 66-14 win over New Mexico at home on Sept. 14. White leads the Irish with 65 total tackles, including 38 unassisted.

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Contact Hayden Adams at

Irish junior kicker Jonathan Doerer follows through on a kick during Notre Dame’s 52-20 victory over Navy on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Doerer has made all 44 of his point-after attempts this season.

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Print Edition of Irish Insider: Boston College  

Print Edition of Irish Insider: Boston College

Print Edition of Irish Insider: Boston College  

Print Edition of Irish Insider: Boston College