The game itself is physical enough.
Now tack on the time spent celebrating the successful plays during the 60 minutes of action within the game.
It’s one and the same according to several Irish players this week who were asked about the celebration injury suffered by sophomore Drue Tranquill last Saturday against Georgia Tech.
“I haven’t said a word to them about it,” said Irish head coach Brian Kelly of the late-second quarter torn right ACL suffered by Tranquill.
“They all know what happened. They all heard about it, saw it. We talk so much about taking care of each other in practice, and we do such a great job of staying up and staying off the ground and taking care of each other.”
Tranquill had just knocked away a Georgia Tech pass in the end zone on 3rd-and-17 when he popped up seeking a teammate with which to celebrate. Linebacker Joe Schmidt had drifted down the field as the football neared the end zone and quickly became Tranquill’s celebratory target-in-sight.
As has been customary for about a decade throughout college and professional football, the two Irish defenders celebrated by elevating into the air and bumping bodies. After contact was made, Schmidt immediately began running up the field to the bench area.
Tranquill wasn’t as fortunate. As he landed from the body bump, he came down awkwardly on his right knee. Moments later, he was screaming and writhing in agony as the pain and realization of another knee injury – he suffered a torn left ACL last November against Louisville – set in.
“He played one of the best halves I’ve ever seen him play,” Schmidt said. “It’s a freak thing. Funny, I hardly ever celebrate after plays, but that was a really great play and he was really excited, so I got really excited. Things happen.”
Despite the consequences of their celebration, Schmidt doesn’t believe the Irish will change their habits after a big play.
“You can’t tell people to stop celebrating plays,” Schmidt said.
The freak nature of the injury raises more questions than it does caution.
“The biggest question guys have when things like that happen is why,” said fifth-year senior Matthias Farley. “It isn’t necessarily related to the play. It’s not a football play. It happened between the whistles. It’s one of those questions, ‘Why do things like that happen to anybody?’”
Like Schmidt, Farley will not be cautioning his teammates about big-play celebrations.
“I don’t think you can tell guys not to celebrate,” Farley said. “It adds so much to the game and it creates so much energy to everyone else on the sideline or on the field with you.”
Exclude another Irish captain – defensive lineman Sheldon Day – from any future high-rise celebration. Of course, Day – a 285-pound senior – does not have the vertical jump of his lighter, more athletic teammates. Plus, he tried it before with negative consequences.
Day landed wrong on a post-play celebration against Michigan State in 2012. Although it didn’t cost him any games, Day was slowed for several weeks as a result.
“No, I’m out,” Day said. “That was my last time celebrating.”
Day doesn’t fault his teammates.
“We definitely play with passion around here,” Day said. “(Tranquill) was just excited that he was playing and we don’t want to take that away from him. It’s a freak accident. I did a similar thing my freshman year, but it wasn’t to that extent. It just depends on who you are.”
Irish receiver Chris Brown takes his perception of mid-air celebrations a step further. It’s become an integral part of the playing process.
“It’s unfortunate, but I feel it’s a fluke thing,” Brown said. “Obviously, we don’t want anyone getting hurt celebrating, but that’s a part of the game. It’s one of those rare occasions where you hope when you’re celebrating, you don’t get hurt.”
Kelly said the Irish take all the necessary precautions to avoid injuries. He doesn’t feel it’s necessary to harp on his players about celebrations.
“I don’t need to remind them about safety and how important it is,” Kelly said. “We have guys crying in the locker room because they lost one of their players. They’re so locked in, they don’t need me to remind them about something like that.”