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Media day circus brings out Notre Dame’s best

Jan 5, 2013, 2:19 PM EST

Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Eilar Hardy (R) poses next to the Coaches' Trophy during media day for the 2013 BCS National Championship NCAA football game in Miami, Florida

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — As a reporter heading into Notre Dame’s media session, you needed to prioritize. For the first time in my years covering this team, you had access to everybody on the football team. Everybody. From Manti Te’o, propped up in front of a dozen cameras, to Cam McDaniel, sitting with the non-starters in the bleachers, baking under the sun at Sun Life Stadium.

But the clock was ticking. Sixty minutes. And it goes by way too quickly.

After 40 days of run-up, there are no new stories to tell about Monday night’s National Championship. With hundreds of media members looking to find an angle that hasn’t been trampled, and players on both team’s being more than respectful about their opponents, it’s a heavy burden to try and pry any newsworthy quote from player.

No, Tyler Eifert wasn’t willing to let the world know he’s heading to the NFL next year. An announcement will come after the season. No, Chris Watt and Christian Lombard weren’t all that willing to discuss the success of the Irish offensive line, especially after hearing about the Tide’s heralded front five all month. And even a linebacker like Dan Fox, all but assured a fifth season after playing key minutes the past few years, was only hopeful that he’d get the invitation to return, struggling to look past the tremendous challenge that Alabama’s offense presents on Monday night.

For a Notre Dame fan, Media Day presented an opportunity to chase a quote from guys at the top of the roster, or spend five minutes with people at the bottom. And while it was tough to find even a redshirting freshman that wasn’t only focused on the task at hand, it was a terrific opportunity to talk to guys that will play significant roles in future Irish teams.

More than anything, the personality of this team showed through this afternoon. There was Cierre Wood, kept away from reporters all season, high-stepping down the sidelines, hollering as he made his way towards the Crystal Ball, prominently on display. And there was Te’o, once again surrounded by reporters and cameras, being asked a question about the greatness of fellow Hawaiian and best friend Robby Toma. By Robby Toma.

There’s no getting around the fact that Notre Dame is still decided underdogs against Alabama. With Las Vegas pegging the Tide a ten-point favorite, the Irish walking away from Monday night undefeated is another challenging proposition, not unlike this entire season.

But if there’s one thing worth taking away from this season — other than the national championship — is the camaraderie of this group. This is a team of terrific personalities, a team filled with front page quotes and feature profiles. And watching kids like Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, and Troy Niklas take in the surreal proceedings of a national championship media day, one year after stumbling to an 8-5 season, is a tremendous experience.

I had only begun to work my way through the bleachers, working my way to guys like Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel, when the ten minute warning hit. An impromptu interview session by Kendall Moore and Sheldon Day turned Bob Diaco and I into subjects, and steered me away from any head coaching questions, as the players turned into intrepid reporters.

The ultimate measure of this season will come when the clock hits zero late on Monday night. But after watching this team enjoy the moment and a week-long trip to South Florida, it’s apparent that whatever happens Monday, this team is one for the history books.

  1. 410keith - Jan 5, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    The fighting Irish will lose the fight Monday night!!

    • notredameirish1980 - Jan 5, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      How poetic and insightful! The increase in inane trolling is the sincerest form of flattery.

    • bernhtp - Jan 5, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      The Irish will win. Are you sure you really aren’t 420Keith?

    • westernpaisdirty - Jan 5, 2013 at 8:56 PM

      Very creative comment. How many crayons did you go through until you perfected it?

  2. 1notredamefan - Jan 5, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    Epic!!!!!

    • irish9314 - Jan 5, 2013 at 9:12 PM

      LOVE THIS… Is it Monday night yet?!?!?!?!!?

  3. c4evr - Jan 5, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Well, here we are finally… the Domers vs. the Mobile Homers, Catholics vs. the Cousins, Saints vs. the Sinners. I’ve caught a lot of grief for being an Irish fan in the deep South. So much so, that the day If I weren’t an Irish fan, I’d likely become an Auburn fan just to spite some of these goofballs. Football in Alabama is not a religious experience – it’s The Religion. Should ND win, keep a close eye on all the old oak trees on campus for signs of poisoning. Still, I see the Irish a 10 point dog for no other reason than Lou Satan’s been to this rodeo so many times in recent years… BK should expect a thorough schooling. T’eo and the team’s miraculous run will end and it won’t even come down to a goal line stand. I see ND in the red zone 3 or 4 times with only FG’s to show for it. ‘Bama only needs two TD’s and I think it’ll be over. Sad to say it, but 24-9 looks like a likely outcome if the game follows suit for all the other BCS (non) games. The best bowl games this year were outside the BCS. Lets just hope ND can hang on to Diaco and that 5 Star linebacker can become the next Manti next year. Inspired play is their only chance and the one area BK lacks the most, IMHO. I hope I’m wrong about the results, but the Tide are the best overall team on paper.

    • goirishgo - Jan 5, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      And Florida was better than Louisville. And Oklahoma was better than the Irish. And USC was the best team in the country. A lot changes when the ball gets snapped.

      Go Irish!

    • ndfaithful - Jan 5, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      C4 – I’m so glad you’re back to your usual gloom and doom. It’s how the season started, and it’s a fitting end. I’ll be so happy to hear you grumbling about play calls on Tuesday after the Irish win!

      I think the Irish need 22 points. I think they’ll get them. I’m looking forward to the team victory, in spite of their flaws, they can and will win.

      GO IRISH!

      • c4evr - Jan 6, 2013 at 12:58 AM

        ND, you are the polyanna to my, so-called, gloom and doom… I guess you complete me, in a weird, non-physical kind of way. But, unfortunately, this time round, it’s not who has the best, most talented team – it’s who will outcoach his opponent. And I know from past interactions, there’s no debating facts with you and your insular point of view. I just hope on Tuesday you can take a page from badgerbuck’s book and just be glad the team made it this far. That is an accomplishment none of expected and all of us relish.

    • irish4006 - Jan 6, 2013 at 11:23 PM

      I am almost convinced now that you are the girlfriend (or boyfriend) that BK (or Mrs. Kelly) dumped back in college for being too annoying, every freaking day. Now, you are trying to get back at the man in your twisted, little way. You pretend to be an Irish fan to gain acceptance but all you have done here is tell everyone what a horrible person/coach BK is, an odd thing to do now esp. since we are just one game away from the NC.

      You pathetic little man, why don’t you try to get a life?

  4. badgerbuck - Jan 5, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    Win or lose it really does not matter,they got there,and that alone should be enough for anyone

    • papadec - Jan 5, 2013 at 7:01 PM

      badger – may be enough for Wisconsin – not enough for a true Championship mentality like ND!

      • c4evr - Jan 6, 2013 at 1:07 AM

        One year removed from a loss to USF and suddenly the Irish have a Championship mentality. I reserve the right to wait until Monday night before placing a moniker like that on this team. No doubt, T’eo’s story may make this a team of destiny, but the money’s not in the bank yet. I hope you are right and it comes down to the final possessions like the Sugar and Orange bowls back in the 70’s between these 2 teams. They’re a hungry team… a team looking for respect. But a Championship mentality – nah, not there yet. Badgerbuck has the right perspective on this one.

    • paiten34 - Jan 6, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      Badger –

      After two decades of losing for nd has shown me one thing, that is that players win games. What nd lacked for so long was game breaking players or game changers. Alabama has been the team with those game changers over the last four years but not this year.

      The Tide of 2012-2013 has solid players but not the first rounders that have won their titles. This nd squad has the players that change games and make teams have to double team. That is why you’ve seen Alabama try more scheme plays like throw on first down versus Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M.

      The fact is Alabama’s coach staff doesn’t trust this versions team to win just playing Alabama football. The past champion quality teams of Alabama would just line up and run right at you with base packages on O and D. This season I don’t see that same confidence from Bama. If the Tide struggle to move the ball on the ground and stop the
      ND run game you’ll see Alabama literally throw themselves out of this game.

      If this game is close going into the 4th Alabama will have a “TIDE” of pressure to over come. The longer Notre Dame keeps this game close the heavier the pressure on Alabama. Trust me Badger it’s tough to win under pressure especially when you have to win playing a team that has been given NO chance to win like ND.

      • irish4006 - Jan 6, 2013 at 11:27 PM

        Also, this ND team seems to be greater than the sum of the parts; they do play like a team and made me proud so many times this year.

        ‘Bama is not invincible and I have a feeling that the team knows it or doesn’t care. Go Irish!!

  5. goirishgo - Jan 5, 2013 at 6:54 PM

    Not to get too far off topic but the Irish men’s bball team is now 13-1 and the women beat #1 UConn at UConn this afternoon.

  6. papadec - Jan 5, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    c4 – best team on paper – doesn’t translate to best team on the field! GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!

    • c4evr - Jan 6, 2013 at 1:13 AM

      True, and I assume you are referring to U of L and/or the Aggies. But Manti’s not in the position to be the sort of game changers Manziel and Bridgewater were. he can’t put points on the board. It comes down to 3 things:

      Who wins the battle in the trenches.
      whether or not Golson wilts under the pressure.
      Who wins the coaching battle.

      • papadec - Jan 6, 2013 at 1:33 AM

        c4 – uhhhh actually the defense, including Manti, can put points on the board with a pick-6, safety………..

  7. 11thstreetmafia - Jan 5, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    Be careful Alabama people. Like the great (yes, great) Mike Tyson said,”everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” ND will punch them in the face early. The Irish will be ready to play. Alabama will be, too. This game is going to be great!

  8. haterhurter937 - Jan 5, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    roll tide

  9. ndfaithful - Jan 5, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    I don’t doubt that Alabama is a fine football team. I think they’re the best team we’ve played all year. But I don’t see any evidence that they’re a truly great team or unbeatable. All the evidence is to the contrary and irrefutable.

    I see a football team that lost to the best team it played. I see a football team that gave up points to the other average – good teams they played. I see a fairly one-dimensional attack. I see and Irish opportunity. I see victory in our grasp and getting there is not enough for these seniors.

    GO IRISH!

  10. joewilliesshnoz - Jan 5, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    Why doesn’t anybody wanna talk about the Pitt game ?

    • c4evr - Jan 6, 2013 at 1:00 AM

      Shhhh, don’t bring up the itt-Pay ame-Gay.

    • papadec - Jan 6, 2013 at 1:39 AM

      The Pitt game? What’s to talk about? The Irish won the game – ND was lucky the Pitt field goal attempt missed. BUT, the Irish WON the game. Good luck, bad luck, good calls, bad calls – all part of any game between any two teams. It will be part of the NC game on Monday – ’nuff said?

      • c4evr - Jan 6, 2013 at 2:06 AM

        ND was lucky the Pitt field goal attempt missed AND the refs didn’t notice the jersey infraction. This would be a whole different conversation about coaching if they had been flagged. Actually, that play is why I think they have a chance in the title game – God must be Catholic (or at least Lutheran). But I wouldn’t count on missed calls to help pull out the game on Monday night… nor any safeties or pick 6’s, for that matter.

      • bernhtp - Jan 6, 2013 at 9:09 AM

        Pitt was lucky that Wood fumbled the ball inches from the goal without hardly being hit. Pitt was lucky that numerous Irish had the flu that week and Nix didn’t play at all in the first half. Haters only look at one side of the luck. ND had a great comeback over a motivated team and won the game. That’s the simple fact that endures.

      • irish4006 - Jan 6, 2013 at 11:30 PM

        Finer points are lost on some people, bern. I gave up a while back.

  11. knowsalittleaboutfoorball - Jan 6, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    It really does not matter how they won. The fact remains they won against good competition and are the #1 team in the land right now. I see the Irish as a team of destiny that plays for each other. If you have ever been on a team that is very strong. Bama has not seen a team as complete as the Irish.

  12. montjamz - Jan 7, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Best O line n college
    QB that’s already been there done that
    2 RBs over 1000 yards
    Defense top n college
    Discipline on both sides of the ball
    Mich win easy ND needed 6 turnovers
    Bama over Ole Miss easy Pitt gets ran over by them n 3 OTs a fluke n overlooked penalty saves ND.
    ….. ND fans : they’ve not seen a team as complete as the Irish … Hmmm that goes both ways.
    Times Up! ROLL TIDE

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