Friday, November 21, 2008

Senior Moment | by Pat

Tomorrow is Senior Day and the final game in Notre Dame Stadium for a number of players on the Fighting Irish team. Senior Day is always a bit of a bittersweet time as we get to both celebrate and say goodbye to the players who have spent the last four to five years representing Notre Dame football on the field.

I don't think I'll ever forget Senior Day against Army in 2006, watching Brady Quinn run off the field for the final time, pointing to the crowd and jumping up on the wall to salute the fans. His class will always remain one of my favorites; not only for their play, but also their great personalities and way they handled the tumultuous coaching transition. I suspect I'm not alone in this regard.

The current seniors don't have the star power of that class, and they've been overshadowed by some of their underclass teammates. But this Saturday I hope all ND fans take a minute to realize the contributions this class made to Notre Dame football. No, there aren't any All-Americans, or even many starters. But this is the class that was still deciding their college futures when Notre Dame decided to part company with the coach who had recruited them. In his place arrived a largely unknown career assistant with essentially no head coaching or recruiting experience. And despite not knowing what the future would hold for them, they still signed up to come to Notre Dame, and cast their lots with a new regime. Charlie Weis summed it up nicely in his presser a few days ago.

I give the staff some credit [for landing the class], but I give those guys credit for coming on board when it was a very...volatile and jumping on board and being part of the long term solution here.
Consider that the classes sandwiching this senior class have seen 14 different players leave the team. Yet in this class of Ty-recruited/Charlie-signed players, only 2 of the original 15 aren't still with us. Most of these guys have been career backups, but that didn't dissuade them from sticking with the program, and as Charlie said, they've been instrumental in being part of the long term solution at Notre Dame. Take a guy like Kevin Washington, for example.
So end of the day, you have a guy like Kevin Washington, Kevin Washington has been here for four years. Hardly has played at all. A little bit on special teams. I can tell you this year if we wanted to, we could make him the defensive show team player of the week every single week.

And what we do is we use guys like him as examples with our young linebackers and the other guys on defense. Fellows, this is the way it's supposed to be done. This is the way you practice. This is the tempo you practice at. This is how it's supposed to be important. And when a guy realizes that, hey, his time has come and gone as far as productive playing time. But rather than complain about their role, accept their role and do what they can do to help the team win, why of a lot of respect for players like that.
This senior class started their journey at Notre Dame just about the same time we started this little blog. Which of course now gives us the opportunity to go back to what we wrote then and chuckle. Yes, I did pick Kevin Washington as the class sleeper. Scott Smith was another popular pick. No one picked David Bruton, not even the BGS writer who shares the same hometown with him. But all of us noted the importance of bring in guys like Duncan and Turkovich given the lack of OL recruits in the pipeline at the time. So at least we weren't completely useless in our predictions.

Back to the present. The Observer has a terrific spread of profiles on all of the seniors, be they 5th-year guys, outgoing seniors, or walk-ons. This makes for a great read as we await the final home for one group of players...and see prospects for the next class just arriving, with the recruiting visits of Manti Te'o, Tyler Gaffney, and Byron Moore.

Good luck in the future, Seniors, and thanks for everything. Our hats are off to you.