I remember getting very excited. I posted the news on the site, I called all my ND buddies and we celebrated the news. QB Arnaz Battle had just committed to Notre Dame. He was the next Tony Rice. He was going to be better than Tony Rice. He would surely win 2 National Championships to Tony's 1. Arnaz himself was celebrating with his Father and I am sure Arnaz had the very same thoughts running through his head as I did mine. He was going to win the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame.
All one has to do is watch the highlight films from his junior and senior year in high school to know why everyone was so excited. The explosion through the hole, the incredible vision and timing. The pocket awareness and the speed. You can't forget about the speed. He made people look as if they were standing still. This guy was the most explosive player I had seen play quarterback. He isn't going to scare many people with his arm but what he could do with his legs was amazing. You were so scared of his legs he would burn you with the pass. You want a guy like this to touch the ball on every play.
Arnaz showed up on campus 6-0 and about a buck seventy. He was a very skinny kid and had a lot of work to do in the weight room. He had plenty of time to sculpt and build on a sprinter's body. He was going to sit behind QB Jarious Jackson anyway so he had time to learn the offense and get stronger. He accepted that role and did all the things necessary to play when it became his turn. I remembering him saying "I just have to wait my turn Mike." His turn did come.
In 1998, Jarious Jackson went down with an injury and Battle saw his first real action in one of the ugliest games I have ever seen (USC). It wasn't the kind of beginning any player hoped for but Arnaz held his own in that game. He got some experience, he would play mop up duty behind Jackson for one more year and then it was his turn.
He showed flashes of brilliance like the 74-yard scamper in the opener against Kansas in 99. Then there was the Stanford game where Jackson struggled early and Arnaz was inserted and led the team to their first touchdown drive only to be rewarded with a seat on the bench. I have always wondered what went through his head as he walked to the bench.
When it was his turn, he threw for 133 yards and 2 tds and ran for 50 yards in his first start and win against Texas A&M. His second start was against Nebraska. Nobody, including me, thought they had much of a chance. Arnaz rushed for 107 yards and almost willed his team to victory all while playing most of the game with a broken wrist.
That wrist injury was the end of all our celebration from that January night in 1998. There would be no National Championship and there would be no Heisman Trophy, at least not at quarterback. I remember thinking to myself, this is hard for me to take, I wonder how he is handling it? All your dreams crushed under a leg rolling over your wrist.
The die was cast with that injury. Notre Dame had recruited 3 new "can't miss" prospects. They were the next Tony Rice, Joe Montana and the next "coulda Arnaz Battle." It didn't take long for the rumors to start circulating that Arnaz was going to move to wide receiver. I said to myself, "well, as long as they get him the ball and often."
The spring of the following year was the "you wouldn't believe what Arnaz did in practice today" camp. Every single day I heard about what an amazing player Arnaz Battle is. Arnaz was ready to set the world on fire. Everyone was ready for the breakout season of Arnaz Battle. September 8th, 2001 was the official launch date of Arnaz the wide receiver. On September 8th, 2 catches, 8 yards. You have to be kidding me, your best player touches the ball 2 times in the biggest game of the year? Such is the story of Arnaz Battle's football career at Notre Dame.
I want to be very clear here. The reason Arnaz Battle has not become a star at Notre Dame has very little to do with Arnaz Battle. His work ethic is fantastic; he has retained his speed and elusiveness even after gaining close to 40 pounds. He took all the bumps, bruises and disappointments with the savvy of a veteran. You can look no further than bad luck and Bob Davie for your answers.
Finally, a chance for a new beginning. A new staff, a new system and hopefully a new beginning for Arnaz Battle. Will Diedrick see the same potential that we have all seen and Davie didn't see? How can you only get two touches for your best player in any game? He might not win the Heisman but all of that disappointment will go away with the cashing of his first NFL check.
Will he be drafted in the 3rd round like Javin Hunter this year or drafted in the 7th like David Givens? In my opinion, he is far more talented than both Hunter and Givens. In my opinion, he is more talented than Eric Crouch or Antwan Randle El who were both drafted in the 3rd round. While neither Crouch nor Randle El has proven that they are wide receivers, neither has Battle. Both Crouch and Randle El have proven they are impact players and that is the one thing left for Battle to do. Is this the year we can finally say "you won't believe what Arnaz did in the game today?"