Fresh Start

After more than 15 months battling injuries and playing through pain, Irish offensive guard Christian Lombard enters his final training camp close to full strength.

Add another irritant to the long list of obstacles faced by rehabbing college football players.

There's the given: the physical pain as an injured player battles through rigorous workouts designed to bring back lost strength.

There's the logical mental hurdle each must face as he braces for that first, second, and sometimes third and fourth padded collision thereafter.

But for Notre Dame offensive guard Christian Lombard, the worst part about his most recent malady -- a broken wrist suffered in a non-contact drill last spring -- was neither mental nor physical.

Rather, it was Lombard's olfactory prowess that did him in.

"I don't know if you've worn a cast before, but it sucks," Lombard offered of the requisite unpleasant odor. "Wore a cast, sprayed a lot of Febreze…that's the recovery process."

Lombard's ongoing search for a fresh scent this summer paled in comparison to his previous ordeal: coming back from a herniated disc and resulting late-October surgery that truncated his 2013 season.

It was something Lombard fought through, often in vain, for more than six months before he finally succumbed.

"It came on after spring ball (2013)," he offered in March. "I didn't really know what it was until some of the symptoms connected the dots. It didn't get worse for awhile and then at a certain point it started going downhill."

Lombard was immediately active following surgery but missed more than two months of lifting sessions. By early spring 2014 -- five months after surgery -- he dubbed himself fully recovered. A broken wrist ensued, but more than five months surgery to repair it, and despite a protective solid plate over his heavily taped hand, Lombard believes he's nearly all the way back.

"Both solid," he said of his back and wrist. "Initially with upper body strength, I wasn't able to lift. But now that I have my range of motion, everything is solid. I hardly notice it. I'm feeling great. Great summer, the strength and conditioning coaches really pushed us. I'm as close to 100 percent as I've been in awhile, I'm feeling good."

Scent of Victory

Feeling good and fully at home at his 2013 position, right guard. Scout.com's No. 2 ranked guard prospect and the first player to pledge in 2010 to the Fighting Irish made his starting debut at right tackle -- all 13 games for the 12-1 national runner-up squad of 2012.

His subsequent move to guard allowed Ronnie Stanley to play right tackle last season. Now Stanley is at left tackle, and right tackle remains a hotly contested position along the squad's remarkably deep offensive front.

He appears to have found a home inside, but regardless of the unit's machinations, Lombard knows it's his time to help guide the now 15-player strong group.

"It's time to step up and lead," Lombard said. "Being a 5th-year guy, it's something you think about (more)."

Already a leader in practice and in the locker room, Lombard added off-the-field camaraderie to his list of duties. His chief role, one he apparently relishes, is conveniently the most direct path to an offensive lineman's heart -- through his stomach.

"Ah yes, CHEF Lombard," said senior center Nick Martin. "He can cook very well. I'd say Italian is his go-to. I think he loves to do it, too."

Irish fans, and Lombard himself, would likely settle for weekly pancakes aplenty.


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