By Omar Ureña

The Fighting Irish fall camp continues and the tests to show the hunger to be a starter are looming. What you’re going to see this season is the arrival of a young Mexican at his destiny in the cathedral of college football. Gabriel Rubio arrives at Notre Dame’s defensive line hungry to play on Saturdays, bringing with him the humility and character of his Mexican family who settled in San Bernardino when California was part of Mexico.

Gabriel Rubio (@GabeRubio97)

The divergence of two paths that pointed to the Midwest. The first by his father and coach Angel Rubio, who traveled from California to Missouri to play at South Missouri State and then Gabriel, bringing his Mexican blood as an invincible warrior to South Bend, Indiana. The boy who grew up in St. Peter’s attending baseball to watch the St. Louis Cardinals and who was always a defensive tackle because of his weight, is about to make his dream come true, playing on the field at Notre Dame Stadium.

As a junior at Lutheran St. Charles High School he had an incredible 17 sacks and 117 tackles. Of those tackles, a staggering 46 were for loss of yards. Gabriel Rubio is as tough as steel at 1.98 m tall and 132 kg, he is as tough as the Mexicans who work as laborers in the U.S. Steel factory in Indiana or the other factories where metal is melted down with lava and fire. My uncle José Jiménez López was part of those steelmakers.

Gabriel’s father was drafted by the Steelers in 1998, from there he went to Arizona with the Cardinals and later joined the San Francisco 49ers. There he became a comrade with great NFL heroes like Bryce Young, the amazing #97 defensive end who annihilated QBs. That’s the kind of player Gabriel wants to become, an NFL headhunter, inspired by dominant players and legends like Reggie White and John Randle.

Gabriel Rubio (97) (Rick Ramirez/Gráfico Sports)

The axis of a defensive machinery is forged with an internal concrete structure, that is precisely the strength that Gabriel will represent starting this season with the Fighting Irish, moving offensive linemen like pulleys in the middle part of this defensive axis where he is going to find anchored alongside experienced players like Jacob Lacey (54), the impressive senior DT.

In the spring game Rubio was confident with two tackles, that is what you are going to expect from this warrior who will come out motivated to give everything because he knows that in Mexico they will be watching him closely. Gabriel wants and knows that he can play in the NFL. He wants to make a difference so that other Mexican kids can also play football in Division 1.

And why not? Why not dream that you can too? If you are reading me, you, a youth football player who can come here to the United States to play high school to give everything and then wake up the next day seeing the immense sun that shines on the lake of Notre Dame and its cave full of candles. Prayers, work, study, but above all determination.

Gabriel Rubio (@GabeRubio97)

This is how roads are built, they are not easy. Gabriel suffered an injury his senior year at St Charles, this guy has literally worked it out in the gym, field and the classroom to be ready in 2022 to tackle enemies in South Bend with his gleaming gold helmet, number 97 on the jersey and the last name RUBIO on the back. His involvement will be modest and he will be ready to follow his veterans.

This season you are about to see a defense of hungry golden soldiers, you are about to witness the forging of an exalted generation of impressive athletes, devotees of the field and studies, the pride of being the best has an impact on a 4-3 defense that will put pressure on quarterbacks.

Coach Marcus Freeman brought in coach Al Washington as defensive line coach, who in 2019 led Ohio State’s defense to number one in total defense and passing yards allowed. The Buckeyes reached the third consecutive championship of the Big Ten Conference. Precisely Notre Dame’s defense begins its 2022 season in a litmus test against Ohio State in Columbus.

Gabriel Rubio (97) (Rick Ramirez/Gráfico Sports)

This year you’ll see an indestructible Isiah Foskey (7), a senior defensive end who passed by the NFL to play at Notre Dame for another year. Foskey recorded eleven QBs eating the grass and had 12.5 tackles for loss of yards. For Foskey and the defense it will be essential to stop the run. Washington will be balancing roster depth and rotating Jacob Lacey and Howard Cross III. The times that Gabriel Rubio enters the field, he will intimidate the opponents with his size and will be a destructive weapon with the adrenaline and Mexican blood that inspires terror. Rubio is also dangerous in the ‘three’ technique.

Gabriel as well as all the other athletes on this defensive line lift irons and strive to do the extra work for the team. Are you willing to follow and support Gabriel Rubio? Because he is going to show you his desire to succeed, he is going to teach you what courage, dream, dedication, passion, obsession and devotion are. That’s Gabe Rubio, who will share reps with Rylie Mills (99), a massive 1.98m, 128 kilos TD, hailing from North Chicago (Lake Forest), who had 3 tackles and 1 sack in the blue and gold game.

2022 Fighting Irish

This is a monstrous class of junior players, but those sophomores…watch out!! because there is the explosiveness, the strength, and the assimilated learning. There are the players who excelled in the blue and gold game; the pride of Honolulu, LB Jordan Botelho (17) who had 5 tackles, Rover from Indiana Jack Kiser (24) with 5. Brandon Joseph (16) had 4 tackles, as did CB Philip Riley.

They are learning in a new cycle, the Coach Freeman era, in which the defense moves through the lateral gaps, attacking, stretching arms and controlling the shoulders of opponents, to move them out of the way. That’s the goal, 11 men going wild for the ball, coach Al Golden has a tough job. This is the time to turn the tide and get out of coach Kelly’s opulent mediocrity that dimmed players’ faith in him.

Marcus Freeman shared his expectations for the defensive linemen facing Ohio State:

“We plan to play probably eight-plus defensive linemen. With Rubio and Rylie and Chris Smith and Lacey and Howard Cross, Jayson Ademilola and I’m sure I can go on and on. We have to be able to rotate guys, especially at the defensive line position in terms of the amount of effort that you’re going to ask those guys to play with. We got to keep them fresh, we got to rotate them. I think coach Washington has done a great job of creating depth amongst that position. When they’re in there, I expect them to be disruptive and I expect them to do their jobs, but there’s going to be multiple guys you see in there.”

This defense is going to be responsive and thrilling if you’re a Fighting Irish fan and if you’re not, you’re also going to be thrilled because you’re going to see deafening hits coming from a car engine about to explode to welcome in the 2022 season in Columbus, Ohio. The Fighting Irish 2022 season kicks off tomorrow and they are ready. Gabriel Rubio and these guys are about to start their journey to the 2023 Playoff Championship. 

Follow Omar Ureña on Twitter: @omarurena_

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