Hendrix's Experience

Sophomore Andrew Hendrix might have fallen two yards short of a highlight reel run in his field debut, but the quarterback's experiences gained along the way will serve him well as he becomes a bigger part of the Irish offense in the season's second half...

Ron Powlus, he of the 18 for 24, 306-yard, 4-touchdown showcase to open his redshirt-freshman season of 1994, redefined the Notre Dame standard for quarterback debuts. Powlus' performance in that nationally televised blowout win over Northwestern at Soldier Field is unlikely to be matched by a newbie signal-caller at the program, at least not statistically or in terms of realized hype (The Observer, Notre Dame's student newspaper, published a football pull-out section featuring Powlus with the title "The Messiah"…before his first game.)

But more than 100 rushing yards and zero incompletions in four attempts was a fine hello for the program's latest debut triggerman, sophomore (redshirt-freshman) Andrew Hendrix.

"I was really excited to get in to be able to show what I had; to let everyone else know," Hendrix said of his first field time Saturday vs. Air Force, technically 19 games into his college career. "I was really confident in my ability, but to let others see I could do this really felt good."

Hendrix had a special package of plays organized by head coach Brian Kelly. They took advantage of one of his now proven strengths: running ability, while keeping under wraps his purported other: a rocket arm.

Notre Dame's offensive annihilation of the Falcons provided the ideal setting for Hendrix to take his turn at center stage.

"I didn't want Andrew Hendrix's first college experience to be the USC game," Kelly noted of Notre Dame's upcoming foe. "And then I wanted to insert him when we were having success because I didn't want to open it up to (the appearance that) we had a couple bad plays, we've got a quarterback situation going on here.

"He went in every time we had successful plays, things were moving positively and he's ready to play against USC now. I don't have to be concerned about what his makeup and demeanor would be inserting him into the USC game."

Hendrix admitted to a bit more "pep in his step" as a result of the field time and success. It just wasn't a chief concern prior to the moment.

"I felt like a part of the program before, the teammates, they all do a really good job from Player A to Player Z, so now that I'm playing, I don't feel any more a part of the team than I did before."

Hendrix knew only that he would play, not when or under what circumstances.

"I wasn't really sure at all. I don't think Coach Kelly knew at all," Hendrix mused. "I just think the opportunity presented itself and I was able to get in. I wasn't (nervous). I was prepared and that calmed me down. We practiced the whole week; I knew what the looks were going to be no matter what (the defense) gave me. My preparation really helped calm me down."

Despite weeks of speculation to the contrary, Hendrix's package did not, apparently, include goal line plays. "Not yet, we'll work on that though."

Re-living the moment

Hendrix will have three seasons of eligibility at season's end. Starter Tommy Rees two; unused freshman Everett Golson likely five, unless he enters a game in the season's second-half. And a year also remains plausible for former starter and current No. 2 Dayne Crist, should a return for a 5th-season be agreed upon between the senior and his head coach.

But Hendrix and Rees are classmates. It seems natural the pair's sudden competition could strain a friendship for the foreseeable future.

"I'd say it's the exact opposite," Hendrix said of duo's shared playing time last week. "To share the field with him a little, I was really excited. It was cool, we've been here with each other since the beginning, to share the victory with him; it felt really good."

Hendrix kept a level-head during the long wait for playing time with a healthy dose of logic.

"My main thing is I (couldn't) control it. So I kept my head down, plowed through to be the best me that I can be.

"I could control making the best of it, and I think I did that."

Also crucial to his opportunity was improvements in the technical aspect of his craft.

"My footwork has gotten a lot better; I'm more consistent reading out plays and in terms of ball security," Hendrix offered. "That probably let (Coach Kelly) feel comfortable to give me some plays I could run in the game."

While Hendrix has improved his physical skills, his mental growth in the offense has been admittedly stunted since the season's outset.

"The basic plays we ran last spring and in summer camp – the meat and potatoes so to speak – I can run really effectively," he offered, "But I wasn't with the 1s and 2s (during in-season, game week installations).

That assimilation to work with the starters likely contributed to his Week Six chance. "Given the opportunity to work with the 1s and 2s in practice, I was clean, and that gave Coach Kelly the confidence to give me the opportunity," he said.

The highlight of Hendrix's afternoon, of course, was a 78-yard sprint to the shadow of the goal line...a destination 80 yards away.

"The first 50 (yards) were alright," Hendrix joked of his sprint, slight stumble and resulting tackle short of the goal. "If I ever get the chance again I think I'm going to score next time."

As for his teammates reaction when they watched game highlights Monday?

"Some giggles and laughs. It was a little embarrassing, I wish I would have finished that one off."

Hendrix was able to move past the disappointment with a touch of self-deprecation. Asked if part of the embarrassment during film review was a slow-motion replay, the sophomore deadpanned. "No, it was (already) pretty slow in live time. The chance was great though."

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