Taking On the Responsibility

<P>Notre Dame football fans didn't have a lot to cheer about in 2003. The Irish football team is hoping to change that in 2004. Irish Eyes recently interviewed three freshmen players who will likely play a large role in restoring Notre Dame to its rightful place in college football—and they welcome the challenge with open arms. </P>

Let me give you a little history on this story. I sent this quick questionnaire to the Notre Dame sports information office for quotes to build this story. I requested a number of freshmen respond—not all did, but that is to be expected considering spring break starts this weekend. It was done via e-mail and not all probably check their e-mail often so it's understandable that all didn't respond. I will say I was hoping for a few more.

What I do find interesting is the three that did respond--one gets the sense in talking to these three individuals that they take their responsibilities seriously. The three that responded were quarterback Brady Quinn, running back Travis Thomas and offensive tackle Ryan Harris.

The first question was about the history of their jersey. Did they know about the other great Irish players who wore the jersey before them? "There were no other players that the coaches or anyone else recall that wore the number 10," Quinn said. "They told me to make a name for it."

Ryan Harris had a different slant. "Coach Mattison told me that it was his number and if I gave the number a bad name, We'll have problems."

One of the most memorable experiences for any player is putting on that jersey for the first time. All three of them remembered it well. "I was very excited to put on the jersey," said Thomas. "Moreover, I was just excited to step out of the tunnel onto the field where so many legends have played before me."

Harris also thought about the Irish tradition before putting on the jersey. "Here we go! This isn't just about this game, this player or this team. It's about the tradition, it is about excellence."

Quinn had a different perspective because there was a good chance he'd be playing. "There were so many thoughts running through my head regarding the playbook and assignments for the game but putting on the jersey for the first time cleared my mind and reminded me how special it is to put that jersey on."

Another thrill for any freshman is the experience of running out of the tunnel for the first time. Travis Thomas remembered that feeling fondly. "I was just filled with so many different emotions--happiness, anxiety, sheer excitement," said Thomas. "I was so pumped up that I was ready to cry. Also, I wasn't playing in the game so my intensity was not sky-high like it normally is, but I still felt the love from the wave of green and the cheering fans."

Both Harris and Quinn were overwhelmed as well. "No words nor emotion can describe one of the best feelings on earth," said Harris. "The roar of the crowd... 80,000 plus cheering and on their feet" is what Quinn remembered most.

Harris, Quinn and Thomas will likely play a large role in returning Notre Dame to the top of college football. We asked them if they felt a personal responsibility to do just that. "I think continuing the tradition that past players have set for us comes along with the playing for Notre Dame," said Quinn. "It is our duty now to get Notre Dame back to the top." "Without a doubt, add another chapter" added Harris.

Thomas also feels obligated. "Of course I feel a personal responsibility to carry on the rich tradition of Notre Dame. When you accept the scholarship to play here you automatically have the weight of the world on your shoulders. As a Notre Dame football player, you have to be on top of your game week in and week out because everyone is going to bring their "A" game when they line up against you."

The last and most important question—-will the Irish be back at the top in the near future? Thomas said he'd be very disappointed if that didn't happen soon. "Anything less than returning this program back to the glory that it deserves will be a disappointment. This football team is equipped with fine athletes who are capable of doing great things. It is just a matter of whether or not it will be accomplished and how bad the men that wear the uniform want it."

Quinn and Harris didn't mince words. "Yes" was Quinn's response. "See you there" was all Harris had to say on the subject.

It wasn't a fun season for anyone involved, but I think a lot of Irish fans forget the fine individuals that play for Notre Dame each Saturday. These three players represent Notre Dame well and will in the future. I also think you will see these three walking out to the middle of the field to call the coin toss in the near future. I do find it funny that these three were the three that responded. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised at all.

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