GOLDEN CHRONICLES OF NOTRE DAME
by Omar Ureña
There is always scepticism surrounding a mystic team, for the first time the Fighting Irish went into spring inside a palace resembling the gates of heaven, 102 kids were on the clouds at the Irish Athletic Center, until March 12th, the day we saw one of the most evil chapters in Sports history, as leagues and tournaments collapsed worldwide, we witnessed the apocalypse of college and pro sports as the same time a warrior in Tenochtitlán was finding his way to the Warriors paradise, the spring’s destiny’s hit Fernando Martinez, former tackle of the Golden Horde, a semi pro team in Mexico City. “Junior” Martinez died the same day the Notre Dame Blue and Gold Game was cancelled. The Golden Horde origin comes from the University of Mexico’s Pumas, a team created in 1927 by two former Notre Dame students, the blue and gold uniforms come from the Irish.
The 2020 Irish were ready to fight and they did it two weeks ago, wearing the iconic golden helmet as the Notre Dame flag was flying on the screen placed at the 50 yard line, today that screen is off , it will maintain dark until CV19 stops its sci-fi curse over sports. For eight of these players it was a brand new dream that came true, but for most of the twenty nine sophomores practicing with intensity was a pure reaction to what they went through last season in the harsh 45-14 loss against Michigan. So the class whose leaders will get the Irish to the next level were ready to battle. The sophomore class looked pretty tough, focused and willing to learn.
Coach Kelly is hungry and his kids too, there’s something about studying and playing in an iconic campus, a motivational and spiritual connection, devotion is what makes football a religion here and the discipline is part of these student-athletes’ education on and off the field. So it’s devastating to see the campus today empty, like a soul lost next to the Irish Athletic Center, the palace which shows inside a collage of photos embracing blue and gold symbolism: “Play like a champion”, ”504 all time NFL picks”, so welcome to the field of committed souls, now willing to resist in pandemic times.
Since spring camp was cancelled the first -and last- practice is the only device to measure the 2020 Irish soldiers. There were seniors who showed they got the drive as well. Among them was TE Brock Wright (89), leading the Tight Ends unit, now coached by John McNulty. Coach Kelly shared to Gráfico Sports what he’s looking for in his tight end group now that Cole Kmet is about to be drafted in the NFL; “We employed a lot of two tight ends, one of them is certainly moving around but they have to be physical and good blockers, so physicality is a mindset, it’s not just the guy who’s looking the space, catching the balls, they gotta be able to do both”. The Irish averaged 4.95 yards in 2019 and Coach Kelly knows they have to run the ball having the tight ends involved, “the mindset of being physical, blocking techniques, not just blocking out of the perimeter and having that type of physicality”.
Precise blocking needs to be done and Jeff Quinn is firmly teaching the offensive line how to do it, that department looked pretty consistent on fundamentals and explosiveness, competition against the defensive line was hard on the pass protection drills. So the offense looked tight, they showed hunger, WR Braden Lenzy (24), who in 2019 had 2 TD receptions and ran for 2 more showed fierce speed in short routes. RB 34 Jahmir Smith, who finished every run in powerful fashion, and then we got Kevin Austin Jr. (4), a rising star in the sky at night, the junior WR missed the 2019 season and seems he’ll use his craving for football as a catalyst to explode and dominate defensive backs when it comes to catching the ball, he did a couple of spectacular catches, one hell of a fight for the ball against cornerback TaRiq Bracy.
These golden kids knew exactly where they were at a week ago, we witnessed courage in a practice where everybody competed at their best, now everything is uncertain for Seniors who don’t even know if they will be able to suit again, if they’re going to be able to exchange flowers in the 50 yard line with their parents and mentors on Senior day against Louisville, although the desire of being back on the field is bigger than a virus hysteria. Student-athletes will come back from the Corona hell. When we all rise from the underworld exciting things will happen in Notre Dame. If you’re an Irish fan you have to believe perfection and fundamentals are the key to get to football heaven, the Fighting Irish are on their way to climb the toughest ladder they’ve ever faced to reach the blue sky wrapping golden dreams on the gridiron. Keep the faith and know these kids will fight, fight and fight! Their hearts speak for them, especially in adversity.