Posted December 20, 2012 on AP on Fox
Notre Dame wide receiver T.J. Jones has plenty on his mind as he prepares for the talented Alabama secondary he'll face in the BCS championship game Jan. 7 in Miami. Still, he can't help thinking about his late father, Andre, who died in June 2011 at age 42 after suffering a brain aneurysm. The elder Jones played on Notre Dame's 1988 national championship team, and T.J. grew up hearing stories about his dad's coach, Lou Holtz. His godfather is Raghib ''Rocket'' Ismail, the team's star receiver and kick returner, and he stays in touch with many of his father's Fighting Irish teammates. T.J. keeps his dad's championship ring at home because his mother is afraid he would lose it at school. He hopes to place his own right next to it. ''Before I came here, we used to always talk about how cool it would be if we both won the national championship, especially if we won it at Notre Dame, once I committed here in high school,'' Jones said after practice Thursday. ''So I definitely have a more personal tie-in with what it means than somebody else might.'' Jones isn't the only Irish player following in his father's footsteps. He's also one of several members of the nation's top-ranked team who have overcome obstacles and setbacks to make it to college football's biggest stage. Last year, Mike Golic Jr., whose father was a star defensive tackle for the Irish in the early 1980s and currently co-hosts a morning talk show on ESPN, had been unable to win a starting job on the offensive line. As a graduate student this season, his hard work and determination changed that. Golic said there were times when he struggled to go on, but his dad was always there with encouragement and advice. ''You have to stay sharp,'' he said his father told him. ''You have to stay ready. If I wasn't ready when my number was called, then I'm letting everyone else down as well as myself. Staying ready and being accountable for what I was responsible for in my role on the team at that point, was his message to me.'' Golic said he appreciates how tough it will be to protect quarterback Everett Golson from Alabama's swarming pass rush, but he's confident. ''They're big, strong, talented college football players,'' Golic said. ''Fortunately for us, we go against big, strong, talented guys every day in practice, on our defense. Our defense is built very similar to theirs - a lot of very talented guys, big bodies, who play a very similar scheme and similar techniques. It's been really a tremendous tool for us. ... It's going to really help us a lot.'' Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell was recruited as a running back and came to Notre Dame with dreams of scoring touchdowns. Instead, coach Brian Kelly moved him to defense before fall camp started. ''Of course I always think about what it would be like if I played running back,'' Russell said. ''But it would have been tough to have a big impact coming in this year, with (running backs) Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick having such great seasons, and George Atkinson III. If Coach said I could play running back next year, I wouldn't do it because I've come to enjoy corner a lot.'' The transition wasn't exactly seamless. Russell had to learn a new position and completely shift how he prepares for the game. The touchdown pass he gave up during the season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland, still sticks in his mind. ''I think I've gotten a lot better,'' Russell said. ''My confidence has increased from the first game, when I allowed that touchdown. I was beat down after that. But I've kept getting more experience throughout the year, learning the techniques of other players and the schemes of our defense.'' Russell said he embraces the challenge of guarding Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, also a freshman. ''He's very strong, runs great routes, knows how to attack the ball,'' Russell said. ''It's going to be fun, me and him looking each other in the eye, freshman to freshman. I'm going to be looking him in the eye, every play, and letting him know I'm here.''

Biggest Notre Dame fan: local baseball team owner

While Notre Dame will not have any shortage of supporters when the Irish go after their first national football title since 1988 in the BCS Championship game January 7, it seems unlikely anyone will be more amped than Pat Salvi.            In case the name escapes, Salvi is the successful Chicago attorney who along with his wife Lindy owns both the American Association...

No. 5 Notre Dame 100, Alabama A&M 39

Notre Dame returned from a 10-day layoff and picked up right where it left off. Kayla McBride scored 16 points to lead four teammates in double figures as the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish cruised to a 100-39 victory over Alabama A&M in the first round of the World Vision Classic on Wednesday. Notre Dame, off for exams since a 109-70 victory against Utah State on Dec. 8, reached...

All 124 FBS college football teams ranked, see how a playoff would look in 2012

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Brian Kelly named AP Coach of the Year

Brian Kelly has led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a 12 – 0 season. The last time the Irish were 12 – 0 was in 1988 when Lou Holtz led them to a national championship in both the AP and Coaches’ polls. “When you’re talking about the coach of the year, there’s so many things that go into it,” Kelly said. “I know it’s an individual award and it goes to one guy...

No. 5 Notre Dame 83, No. 22 Texas A&M 74

Skylar Diggins and Natalie Achonwa were two big reasons why Texas A&M didn't get the best of Notre Dame again. Diggins scored 24 points and had five steals, and Achonwa added 22 points and 14 rebounds as No. 5 Notre Dame beat No. 22 Texas A&M 83-74 on Friday night in the championship game of the World Vision Classic. Texas A&M topped Notre Dame in the championship...

The Notre Dame 2012 Season In Epic Video

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Alabama's Hype Anthems Are Putting Notre Dame to Shame

Yesterday it was Nucklez with the best tailgating party anthem of all time. Now it's Carey Fountain and Rudy Problems (seriously, Rudy Problems) dropping Alabama rap song that would've been #1 on TRL for like 40 straight days in 1996. Language NSFW: NOTRE DAME. For the love of God, step your game up. Please.

Kelly named AP Coach of the Year

After two seasons as Notre Dame coach, Brian Kelly decided he wasn't spending enough time doing the best part of his job: coaching players. Kelly changed that in 2012, and he shuffled his staff. Then, with Kelly more in tune to his team and the assistants in sync with the head coach, Notre Dame went from unranked to top-ranked. For leading the Fighting Irish to the BCS championship...

Networks see decline in College Football viewership, well unless you had Notre Dame.

Sometimes it seems college football can’t be stopped. It will just keep making more and more money and more and more people will keep watching, or will they? I was surprised to this article from the SportsBusinessDaily, that showed a decline across the board in college football televsion ratings.  To reveal the power of the Notre Dame brand, NBC was up a whopping 67%, while all...

Sports Media Digest- December 21, 2012

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Diggin’ on Skylar Diggins

It’s that time of the year that I look forward to every year…Women’s College Basketball.  Yeah, yeah, yeah…laugh it up.  Done?  OK.  Here’s the reason why:  Notre Dame’s senior guard Skylar Diggins.  I’ve been checking up on the Fighting Irish MVP for the past couple years (i.e. borderline stalking her every move).  Skylar’s an exceptional basketball The post...

IE Podcast: Off the field

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Understated, Underrated

Refocused after family tragedy in 2011, Notre Dame's top chain-moving receiver is likewise rededicated to his craft. His family, as always, remains first.
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