Show Team To Show

Two summers ago, Junior Jabbie didn't think he had a chance to compete at running back. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis didn't want to say that Jabbie was malcontent, but he knew he wasn't happy. Jabbie left the team for a short while but never left school, and Weis called the Parlin, N.J. product before that upcoming fall camp with a chance to return.

"I called him over the summer and said I can give you another opportunity to come back and be a part of the team," Weis said. "Here is what you're going to have to do. You're going to have to be on show team every single day. Somewhere along the line, if you ever earn your way on the other side, you'll start playing."

The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Jabbie took the second opportunity and ran with it. Eventually, in a literal sense.

Week after week, Jabbie gave the Notre Dame defense a look of what they were going to see on upcoming Saturdays as the scout-team running back. He wasn't even running on any special teams units. Jabbie was a show-team member for special teams as well.

But Jabbie kept plugging along, and players and coaches began to take notice. He eventually found his way onto the field on game day by way of special teams. The cycle came full circle this past spring when he earned MVP honors of the Blue-Gold game after gaining 87 yards on 13 carries. This season, the senior has had a role in the game plan each week, and last Saturday against Purdue, Jabbie was the running back that played the most in the second half.

"It's interesting because he is one of those feel good stories," Weis said. Last season, he awarded Jabbie the show team player of the week award on numerous occasions.

"When I was down there running scout team, I was making a lot of plays," Jabbie said. Everybody was congratulating me. The coaches were telling me I was doing a good job and to keep it up. That was a turning point."

After not seeing any action during his first two collegiate seasons, Jabbie took advantage of being the man on the show teams, and earned playing time in the final five games of last season. Then he impressively weaved his way through the Irish defense in the spring game.

"I used it as an opportunity to get in the game because a lot of them kept saying if you show you can play on scout team, they'll have confidence to put you in the game," Jabbie explained. "I kept going out there and working everyday real hard on scout team, and like they said they would do, they did it.

"Everyone has their role on the team, and my role was to play scout team and help the team get better. It wasn't really hard. It was just knowing my role and going out there and playing hard and trying to help everybody get ready for the game."

This season, Jabbie's role has changed. He has split time with Notre Dame's other running backs, Travis Thomas, James Aldridge, Armando Allen and Robert Hughes. Jabbie typically comes in during passing situations, and has seven carries for 17 yards, and six receptions for 20 yards.

"He's our most solid most consistent blitz pickup guy," Weis said. "That's one of the reasons why he is in that role."

Jabbie said that when he entered the game against Georgia Tech in the season opener, everything around him was happening so fast. Five games into the season, he has settled in on the field.

"It feels good," Jabbie said. "Everybody kept telling me to keep working hard and things will pay off. I just kept going out there and working hard and it feels good."

***That same summer Jabbie was earning his way back into the fold, Kyle McCarthy was a 175-pound freshman cornerback timid about the college game. And like Jabbie, McCarthy, now a 6-foot, 207-pound junior safety, has used the show team to catapult himself into the mix on the Irish defense.

"I think everyone that comes in freshman year is a little shocked at first, but you just have to keep working and have the faith in everything that it's going to come your way someday," McCarthy explained.

McCarthy's day was against Purdue last week. The Youngstown, Ohio product had his first career interception, and recorded three tackles. McCarthy has seen significant reps this fall in the Irish secondary, and has seven tackles on the season.

"He's another guy, basically went from a show team guy working his way up into the two deep at safety to the point where the coaches have confidence they can put him in there and good things will happen," Weis said.

Just before halftime, Purdue was driving and looking to add to its 23-0 lead, when McCarthy picked off Curtis Painter and gave his team a little momentum heading into the locker room.

"(Defensive coordinator) coach (Corwin) Brown always says be ready," McCarthy said. "He called me in. I was the backside safety and I read the play. Fortunately for me the quarterback threw it. It was a good play and good confidence booster for me."

McCarthy never played safety at Cardinal Mooney High, where he led his team to a state championship as the quarterback and cornerback. During fall camp of his freshman year he moved to safety, and was buried on the depth chart behind Tom Zbikowski, Chinedum Ndukwe and many others. He red-shirted, and found his way onto the field in a special teams role as a sophomore. He finished the year with nine tackles.

With Ndukwe gone this year, McCarthy showed during spring and fall camps that he is a serviceable backup to junior David Bruton.

"Once you get comfortable in the system, once you get to everyday in practice you know the guys you're going against, this is Notre Dame, if you can compete here, you can compete anywhere," McCarthy explained.

As a freshman, McCarthy actually was the show team quarterback as Notre Dame prepared for Navy. He was named the player of the week in practice. That will likely be the last time McCarthy ever takes snaps at quarterback.

"I still got it though," he stated.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories