Gameday at Notre Dame: Make the last one a good one

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As a large group of Notre Dame seniors head onto the field for the last time, there’s been an awful lot of good work done to document the event. Before we get to the live blog, let’s get everyone up to speed on some of the great articles that were written in the last day or so.

First things first, Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune has a great article on tight end Mike Ragone, the Irish’s often injured inspirational leader. The fact that Ragone is only know becoming the mature team-leader he is as he nears what might be the end of a star-crossed career is a heartbreaker.

From Hansen’s excellent profile:

The best part is the kind of person Ragone has become because of football. His 11 career catches barely outnumber the crises he’s had to overcome, including one that was self-inflicted.

Yes, at every turn, he’s made the most of his second chances – after the knee surgery that wiped out the 2008 season, after a an ear infection in preseason camp of 2010 that allowed Tyler Eifert to leapfrog him on the depth chart, after a heat illness that scared everyone around Ragone, after a spring 2010 arrest for marijuana possession.

“I acted like such a (dummy),” he said. “That’s not who I really am. I don’t take things for granted anymore. And I’ve grown up. I used to be such a (hard guy). Guys would have problems, and I’d tell them to tough it out. That’s not right. Now I want to be there for everyone. It’s hard to describe.”

In the tunnel, Ragone figures all that will come flooding back at him.

“Man, it seems like I was just signing my letter-of-intent the other day,” he said. “I had all these big dreams, you know.”

If I’m Brian Kelly, I’m finding a way to bring back Ragone if the NCAA approves a sixth year, even if it means taking one less recruit. He could be the perfect leader for an offense that’ll be short Michael Floyd, and even if he cedes a pass-catching role to Alex Welch or Ben Koyack, Ragone could help the Irish run the ball with extreme aggression.

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Meanwhile, Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune paints a pretty picture of Harrison Smith, the musician.

In third grade, Harrison Smith picked up a guitar. He hated it, so he quit. A couple of years later, under a new instructor, his mom started playing and she loved it. So Smith decided to try it again.

He started with James Taylor and the Beatles. Now, on request, he’ll navigate the progressions of a Dave Matthews tune. Basically, when football hostilities don’t gnarl the Notre Dame safety’s fingers into the shape of tree branches, he’ll play just about anything.

This is the thing with Harrison Smith: There are sometimes initial throes of impatience. Just give him time.

“It’s frustrating at first,” Smith said outside the locker room this week, discussing his instrument of choice. “There’s like a point you have to break through, and then you enjoy it.”

It’s not hard to see the parallel that Hamilton draws. Smith went from misfit toy to the pride of the defense, thanks to a fresh start and perspective, and the tutelage of Chuck Martin, the perfect man for the job. Good thing he’s still not a 210-pound linebacker.

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But if there’s some mandatory pregame reading, the crew over at The Observer has you covered. There are Senior Day previews and then there’s The Observer’s Senior Day Preview.

If you’re looking for dedication, Douglas Farmer’s crew is showing it — cracking out an article on every senior on the roster… All 38 of them. Sure, they give Harrison Smith, Ethan Johnson and Michael Floyd their due. But they also give you profiles on guys like Lane Clelland and Dan McCarthy, and even more impressively walk-ons like Patrick Coughlin, Ryan Kavanaugh, Nick Lezyinski, and Dennis Mahoney.

Do yourself a favor. Give the full issue a read. (Or else!)

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It looks like we’re in for a blustery South Bend day. Let’s see if the Irish can keep up their mastery of November and bowl over an over-matched Boston College team.