Notre Dame made all three quarterbacks available to the media on Friday. And as you may have expected, DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire and Brandon Wimbush all said the right things as they begin their battle for the starting quarterback job.
But mixed among the platitudes and Nook Laloosh-level cliches (Seriously, watch Zaire almost crack a smile in his first attempt to avoid the question) was some good old fashioned honesty from Zaire.
And man, was it refreshing.
Zaire’s candor isn’t new. And coming off a year where he opened the season with a nearly perfect statistical game against Texas only to break his angle the next weekend, Zaire’s comments felt a lot like—well, years’ past, when the Ohio-native spoke honestly about his self-belief and attitude during quarterback battles with Everett Golson.
“You just really wonder what it’s gonna take to finally convince people enough that I’m able to do the job, but like I said, I don’t make the decisions, so I just gotta keep balling and do what I gotta do. And that’s being the best in the country every time I gotta be out there and proving that to myself.
“I know I’m a championship quarterback and that’s something we’re working on. Every day is another process for me and my growth and development, and I know I’ve got to be at the best of shape at all times to help this team win football games.”
Credit ESPN’s Matt Fortuna for finally prying the answer out of Zaire. But also credit the rising senior quarterback for telling it like it is. A big reason why I’m not willing to count out Zaire from this battle is the attitude he displayed answering the question.
No, he’s not a guy running from the battle. He’s a quarterback doing the opposite, taking it into his own hands to make it impossible for his coaches not to give him the job. That’s all a staff can ask for, especially in a program that built competition into its DNA.
Of course, mental fortitude is a nice perk, but if you don’t have the physical goods than it really doesn’t matter. Kizer’s breakthrough season has many thinking the sky’s the limit for the rising junior. But we could be saying the same thing for Zaire, who in only 75 career passes has thrown five touchdowns and zero interceptions, completing over 62-percent of his throws while running for more than 5.5 yards-per-carry, all while beating LSU and Texas.
There’s over five months until Notre Dame heads to Austin to open 2016 against the Longhorns. Expect Zaire to battle all the way until he boards the plane.