ND Steps Into The Ring For Jefferson

Notre Dame has had luck with a safety slash boxer in the past. Now, they're trying to do it again in the future.

First it was Tom Zbikowski, who won a professional heavyweight boxing match at Madison Square Garden the year before his final season in an Irish uniform.

Perhaps next, Tony Jefferson.

The son of U.S. Olympian and heavyweight silver medalist, Tony Jefferson Sr., the younger Jefferson, like Zbikowski, has had amateur success.

"I've won a few tournaments," the 6-foot, 195-pound Chula Vista, Calif., product said. "My Dad's boxing coach is the one that trained me."

On the gridiron, Jefferson is quickly becoming a top-notch football recruit like Zbikowski was.

Jefferson gave Stanford a verbal commitment back in September, but the class-of-2010 standout recently decided to reopen the process, and listen to what other schools have to say. He now has offers from Florida, Arizona, Oregon State, Fresno State and a verbal one from Notre Dame.

Irish assistant coach Brian Polian was at Eastlake High recently to inform Jefferson he was in Notre Dame's plans.

"They're just saying they're really interested, and they're going to move quick on me and they really want me up there. I was excited when they gave me the scholarship.

"I know that they're in an independent conference, and they schedule hard teams, and they have a good program there, good coaches, and I know Notre Dame will get better every year. It's a nice school. I don't have any dislikes about it. Everything about Notre Dame I like."

Jefferson said that schools are recruiting him as both a running back and a safety. In helping lead Eastlake to a 10-2 record, he rushed for 1,322 yards and 26 touchdowns. On defense, Jefferson had 89 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Polian told Jefferson they like him at safety.

"He said he likes how physical I am," Jefferson said. "I love to hit, and on my highlight film, there is a lot of big hits. He said I could make a big impact there, and he likes how I play. I have speed, and he says that's what Notre Dame needs."

Jefferson will talk to Irish head coach Charlie Weis on the phone this week to make the offer official.

"It's one thing to hear from one of the coaches at a prestigious school like that, but to hear from a head coach, it's unbelievable. I would've never pictured me talking to the head coach of Notre Dame."

Jefferson said the only place he has really gotten a chance to visit thus far is Stanford.

"I'm planning on making a few trips this year in the spring, and Notre Dame is one of them. It's probably going to be the first. We're setting that up right now."

Now that he's open again, Jefferson is taking it slow and isn't sure when he's going to make a college decision.

"First of all, I want to play when I get there, but if it's going to take a red-shirt year, that's okay too," Jefferson explained. "I'm looking for a strong engineering program because that's what I want to do. I need some support with the tutors and everything, nice quality coaches, and just a place I can feel at home when I'm away from home."

Unlike Zbikowski, who just wrapped up his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens, Jefferson doesn't have any ambition to pursue boxing on the professional level.

"I'm just strictly football," Jefferson stated. His father also played safety at Arizona State for a year. "It's just a side sport.

"But you can't go wrong with boxing. You get in better shape and you get a little tougher."

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