The Forgotten Back

If it wasn't for Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis occasionally name dropping Junior Jabbie, one would suspect that only three players were competing for reps and the chance to replace Darius Walker as the Irish's starting running back. While Travis Thomas, James Aldridge and Armando Allen get all the pub, Jabbie has quietly gone about his business this spring, making an impression on Weis.

While Jabbie hardly hears his own name outside of the program, that doesn't bother him. He is just happy to be suiting up everyday.

A senior from Parlin, N.J., the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Jabbie left the team before the 2005 season and wasn't sure he'd ever get the opportunity to play football again. Weis gave him the chance to return right before the 2006 campaign, and Jabbie felt like he had been given his life back.

Jabbie didn't play in a game as a reserve defensive back his freshman year in 2004, and requested and was granted a chance to play running back, his primary position back in his prep days. From there, Jabbie just wanted to help the team anyway he could.

Buried on the depth chart behind Walker, Aldridge and Munir Prince, Jabbie proved to be very beneficial to the team as the scout team tailback. One week he'd emulate Penn State's Tony Hunt, the next week it was Michigan's Mike Hart.

"I was just trying give them the best look," Jabbie said. "If I was going to take a pounding, I was going to do it. I was just trying to get our team ready for the next game."

A rusty Jabbie was never a serious contender for game-day reps last season. It took him some time to get acclimated with playing football again, and playing running back. He did play in five games on special teams and made two tackles.

But with a whole season under his belt, and practically a whole spring, Jabbie hopes the only person he is emulating in practice this coming fall is Junior Jabbie.

"I never felt like I lost my running back ability, but it's like the more I play it, the more I get the feel for it over and over again," Jabbie said. He had 1,200 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns in one year of prep school at The Hun School, and is also involved in heavy competition at one of the Irish's two kick return spots.

"I think he has more experience so he is playing with a little more confidence," offensive coordinator and running backs coach Mike Haywood said. "When you have a young man that plays with more confidence, you see more of his athletic ability. I think that he is getting better each and every day with his vision, ball security and becoming a better running back."

Jabbie credits those scout team reps for really helping him mature as a player in such a short time.

"Most of the times I was going against the ones, so I'd go out there and feel real confident every time I was the running the ball," he said.

Jabbie's confidence doesn't waver when he sees Thomas, Aldridge or Allen do something impressive during practice this spring. He feels he is right there with those guys.

"I think I am pretty quick, I can read the blocks pretty well, I see things pretty clearly and I think I bring a different dynamic to the table. All us running backs have a different style and I think I bring a different part to the table."

A full table. One that Jabbie never wishes was empty. One where he was the featured back getting no competition from anybody.

"That's a good thing for us because if one goes down, then somebody else could step in," Jabbie said. "Or we could all get a good rotation and that could help us all be better.

"Everybody came into the season with real high expectations to get on the field because all the people who have started have either graduated or are trying to go the next level. So it's just a competition everyday, so we have to go out there and work hard everyday."

Some guys are just getting more pub than others. However, the only opinion that matters is coming from the guy doing the occasional name dropping. Top Stories