Jim Molinaro says his career has been a wild ride. Frustrating at times, joyful in others, but he says it's all been worth it. "It's been an interesting one," said Molinaro of his experience at Notre Dame. "That's kind of how life is. If this place was easy, everyone could get through it. I've learned from a lot of my experiences. I'm close with a lot of guys, and made a lot of friendships here—that makes it all worth it."
Molinaro has had to season his hopes for a successful season dashed numerous times. He, and the rest of the senior class, have experienced times when they were close to putting it all together, just to see it crumble at their feet once again.
"It's very frustrating. The way our season and schedule go, you can't take time to complain about it. You can't let yourself get emotionally tangled up in it. You've got to keep going, you just worry about Boston College. You don't think about USC or Florida State or you will lose another game. I don't worry about anything else, but Boston College, who I'm going against, and that is how I handle it."
Molinaro reported to Notre Dame as a defensive end. After slugging it out on the defensive side, Molinaro made the switch to offensive tackle—a position he knew he would succeed at. "I always knew I'd be playing. I know I'm not playing the best I can, but I keep trying to get better. Every week, I'm trying to improve on one little thing. I knew the switch would be hard, but I knew I would be playing."
The Bethlehem, PA native has witnessed signs of his offensive line putting it all together this year, like the Pittsburgh game. "That was great—especially for the O-line. We have taken so much criticism, and to have a game like that was a sigh of relief. We really stuck the ball to them. We got some momentum going and we kind of learned what it felt like to dominate a team up front."
Before that game, Molinaro said something that a true leader would say. He made a statement saying that the Irish would be in a fourth-and-one situation, and he hoped his coaches would run behind him because he would get the job done. The unit needed a leader, and since that game, the Irish have looked like a different team.
"I think we needed the seniors to kind of step up and say ‘I'll take the bull by the horns. I'll take the responsibility, you guys follow. This is what I'm going to do, and I want you guys to follow.' When I said that, I really meant that towards the offensive line and the whole offense in general. Everyone in fourth and one has to do their job. Hopefully, that gave everyone more drive to do what needs to be done."
Molinaro's best friend on the team is Julius Jones. He says he's glad to see his friend having success. He said the offense as a whole gets very excited when Julius or anyone takes off on a big run. "It's very contagious when Julius or Ryan has a big run. He (Jones) gets excited and starts jumping up and down. You start playing with less tension, and it's easier to focus in when things are going your way."
Molinaro believes the offensive line is starting to make that transition from thinking to reacting, and that has been the biggest reason for success. "When you get to the point where you are doing things, and you don't have to think, everything starts to fall in place. You can just tell when an offensive line starts to play like that. The reads come easier, more cleaner, it just comes naturally, and that develops over time."
Molinaro also said that freshman quarterback Brady Quinn is starting to really feel comfortable as the starter, and that has helped the offense. "He's more relaxed. He was kind of quiet at first but now he's more relaxed. I see him stepping up in the pocket a lot more, and I'm glad to see that. I hate it when quarterbacks run all over the place."
The Irish face Boston College this weekend. Molinaro knows about the hatred, the taking of the turf, etc. He says he will remember that when he's playing the game. "You use that as ammo. You look at what they did to us last year, and that shows what they think of us. Anytime you have a team do something like that, you're going to use that. You keep that in the back of your mind when you're playing in a game like this."
The Irish lost a close game last year to the Eagles. Molinaro thinks they can beat this team if they execute their game plan. "They've got a lot of guys back from last year. As long as we execute our scheme and stick with the game plan, we should have success. We have a good scheme, the coaches have really worked hard, and it's all about executing the scheme."
Molinaro believes the offensive line is very close to becoming a solid unit. He's hoping that will come very soon. "We watch the film, and sometimes we get frustrated because it seems like we're the only people who can see where we can go with this. The first quarter, I don't want to talk about USC, but we were rolling. The potential is there, it's all about execution, and not making silly mistakes. That has been our biggest problem this year."
Hopefully the Irish will come together and send this senior class off with a stretch of games they can be proud of. It's all about the execution.