Jan 7, 2013, 8:46 AM EDT
The ninth in a series on ten below-the-radar players whose performances helped key the Irish’s run to the national title game. Others include Zeke Motta, Danny Spond, TJ Jones, Prince Shembo, Theo Riddick, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tommy Rees and Mike Golic Jr.
With Notre Dame fans eager for revenge against Michigan after three straight heart breaking losses, they looked to Stephon Tuitt for help. The six-foot-six, 306-pound sophomore defensive end had exploded on the scene early in 2012, racking up stats at an alarming rate.
His touchdown against Navy looked like something out of a video game, a giant man outrunning players that usually sprint away from defensive linemen. The emerging defender was a terrifying presence on the field for opposing offenses, and Irish fans took to pop culture and superhero movies for a nickname, comparing Tuitt and his intimidating, multi-barred facemask to the antagonist Bain, the menacing hulk that calmly terrorized Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises.
Tuitt gave the Notre Dame record books a scare this season, nearly toppling Justin Tuck’s single-season sack record for the Irish. And as the one of the key anchors to the stingiest defense in the country, the Georgia native erased any worry about losing classmate Aaron Lynch, who overshadowed Tuitt last season when Tuitt battled a variety of maladies. Clear of mono, past a disappointing benching for sleeping through a morning class, Tuitt took the challenge of the 2012 season as a goal to embrace, and his commitment to dominating his opponents was a key factor in the Irish defense’s leap from good to great.
As Tuitt turned in an All-American campaign, media members took notice of the country-strong giant from Georgia. And thanks to some great reporting, we’ve learned more about a Tuitt, a thoughtful young man whose journey to football is a tremendous story.
Andy Staples of SI.com chronicled Tuitt’s decision to start playing football, and the long, fearful walk he took to join a team he felt compelled to play on. Against his mother’s wishes, and with no other mode of transportation available, Tuitt walked nearly a dozen miles to join his high school football team. After learning the game and growing into his gigantic frame, Tuitt helped turn his team’s fortunes around — a squad that went 0-20 in his sophomore and junior year went 11-2 during his senior season, with Tuitt as its star and leader.
For a football player so large and powerful, there is always a thoughtfulness that comes across when you hear Tuitt speak. It likely comes from the commanding presence of his mother in his life, sheriff’s deputy Tamara Bartlett. Bartlett guided her son’s college search, more focused on graduation rates and a school’s reputation than football program or defensive scheme.
Yet that thoughtfulness might also come from the pains of his journey to football stardom. As Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune revealed, Tuitt played this season grieving the loss of a father he never knew.
“I just wanted to meet him, and use this attention to grab out there to see him,” Tuitt told Hamilton. “But it didn’t work out the way I thought it would. I thought I was so close. Yet I’m so far, because he’s gone already.
“It has been hard. It had a lot of affect on me in different areas and I still feel it to this day. It’s a lot of hurt. A lot of hurt.”
Tuitt keeps most of that hurt inside, beneath an exterior that reveals a polite and happy young man. In that way, maybe he is similar to one of those larger than life movie characters. A gentle soul, driven by life’s winding journey. But once he puts on that golden shining helmet, and hides behind his menacing face mask, Tuitt unleashes a fury that Irish fans haven’t seen along the defensive line in years.
He’ll have one last chance to put on his cape tonight.
Jun 19, 2013, 2:35 PM EDT
Not many skill players have come to Notre Dame in recent years with the expectations of Florida’s Greg Bryant. After a heralded prep career, Bryant walks onto campus with many believing he’s already the best running back in South Bend. Of course, heralded freshmen phenoms are nothing new for the Irish. But getting the type…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
As part of their build up for the upcoming season, ESPN’s Insiders took a look at the health of major programs as they are positioned for the future. While Power Rankings have turned into a staple of just about every daily website, a Future Power Ranking was a cool idea. The group of Travis Haney,…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:50 AM EDT
When Hunter Bivin gave a verbal commitment to Notre Dame, most fans thought the Irish were getting a prototype offensive tackle that had the chance to compete for the job of Zack Martin’s replacement. It turns out the Irish were getting much, much more, with the versatile Bivin being a veritable Swiss Army Knife for…
Jun 16, 2013, 12:41 PM EDT
With the freshman class on campus and the football team starting voluntary workouts and summer school, the team is now in the hands of strength coach Paul Longo and medical trainer Rob Hunt. That’s good news for an important recruiting class that will likely have a few early contributors come September. One athlete who doesn’t…
Jun 13, 2013, 8:17 PM EDT
Caught up in the commotion of DeShone Kizer’s commitment to the Irish was the news of how Kizer actually committed to Notre Dame. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback called to deliver the good news to Brian Kelly and the head coach wasn’t in South Bend, but actually in New England spending some time with Bill Belicheck…
Jun 12, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT
For those worried about the Irish defensive line after the surprising loss of Eddie Vanderdoes, it’s probably worth taking a look at who’s returning along the Irish front. Just about everybody. While the Irish lose senior captain Kapron Lewis-Moore to graduation, they return five of their top six players up front, including All-American caliber talent…
Jun 12, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT
After a lot of grumbling by Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson, it appears that Notre Dame and Arizona State’s game in 2014 will go on after all. The Sun Devil’s athletic director took to the internet yesterday to announce that the Irish’s date in Tempe that looked to be in jeopardy is back on…
Jun 11, 2013, 9:00 PM EDT
Notre Dame received the commitment of Toledo quarterback DeShone Kizer Tuesday. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback had offers from Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Penn State, and Tennessee among others. “I am privileged to say that I will be continuing my Fighting Irish tradition by playing football at the University of Notre Dame!” Kizer Tweeted this afternoon. Kizer’s…
Jun 10, 2013, 5:41 PM EDT
We’re a week away from freshman reporting to summer school — finalizing the assembly of the 2013 Fighting Irish football team on campus and beginning offseason workouts. Across the country, guys like Greg Bryant and Jaylon Smith say goodbye to home and high school and prepare to go from All-Everything recruits to freshmen football players,…
Jun 7, 2013, 7:01 PM EDT
As someone that had the opportunity to participate in this coaching staff’s very first Fantasy Camp, I can tell you that it’s an incredible experience. The Notre Dame staff roles out the red carpet for both campers and returning alums, making the short week one of the best experiences you could ever hope for if…
Jun 6, 2013, 1:40 AM EDT
Editors Note: While there’s no doubt that Rees will be the starting quarterback against Temple, the headline of this story has been tweaked to be a little less definitive, as talking at a banquet hardly construes an official announcement. UPDATE: It appears that Kelly did more than hint at Rees being the frontrunner for the…
Jun 5, 2013, 6:39 PM EDT
In one of the great examples of June being the Sahara for college football fans, Notre Dame recruit Elijah Hood, one of the best running backs in the country, got caught up in social media circus yesterday, courtesy of a Vine video he made. Hood, one of the most active social media users in the…
Jun 4, 2013, 5:11 PM EDT
Eddie Vanderdoes won’t be attending Notre Dame. Both Brian Kelly and the talented defensive lineman agree on that. How the situation ever got to this point, well that’s a story most people are still trying to figure out. Today, after a few weeks of murky details slowly coming to the surface, Vanderdoes, Notre Dame and…
Jun 3, 2013, 1:52 PM EDT
Summer break is over for the Irish football team. Returning members of the football team came back to South Bend yesterday to begin preparation for the 2013 season. While all workouts are technically voluntary, every player (freshmen will show up in two weeks) is expected to begin work with strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo…
May 31, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Everett Golson intends to return to Notre Dame after his suspension. That’s the good news. But for Brian Kelly and his coaching staff, there’s no planning for good intentions, and right now the quarterback depth chart looks vastly different without Golson at the top of it. The once robust quarterback group had a very tough…
May 28, 2013, 4:13 PM EDT
Since the revelation of Everett Golson‘s suspension from Notre Dame, not much had been clear about the future of the Irish’s starting quarterback. But after listening to head coach Brian Kelly, one thing now is: The door is wide open for Golson to return in the spring. Kelly spoke briefly with the media Tuesday afternoon,…
May 27, 2013, 5:34 PM EDT
In the span of one holiday weekend, the trajectory of Notre Dame’s football program has been irrevocably changed. That’s not hyperbole. Coming off a twelve-win season and finally solving a quarterback conundrum that took three seasons to sort, Brian Kelly turned down an opportunity to jump to the NFL, presumably because he saw the bright…
May 26, 2013, 9:22 PM EDT
A day after news broke that Everett Golson was no longer enrolled at Notre Dame, the quarterback confirmed and clarified the circumstances surrounding his shocking departure. With the university bound to silence due to privacy laws, Golson himself acknowledged an academic situation that let to a suspension for the fall semester, ending his football season…
May 26, 2013, 12:40 AM EDT
Starting quarterback Everett Golson is no longer enrolled at Notre Dame. The bombshell was confirmed last Saturday night by university spokesman Dennis Brown to multiple outlets, with local NBC affiliate WNDU the first to report the news. Two sources tells Inside the Irish that an academic violation is the root of the problem, and may…
May 24, 2013, 6:59 PM EDT
With the unofficial kickoff to summer upon us, we’re inside 100 days until football is back. That may seem like quite a long time, but we’ve got plenty of ground to cover in the next few months as we get a better look at what the 2013 Fighting Irish will be. Before everybody disappears for…
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