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Football: ND celebrates victory as family

Joe Meixell | Monday, November 19, 2007

After the “Alma Mater,” after the “Victory Clog,” even after “When Irish Backs Go Marching By,” Notre Dame was still there.

Not just the football team, but everything that Notre Dame means. The students, the band, and even University President Father John Jenkins were still celebrating long after the final whistle blew.

Everyone in the Stadium was acting as one Saturday night – and not just in singing “Notre Dame, Our Mother.” Wide receivers Golden Tate and Robby Parris and nose tackle Ian Williams danced the Irish jig along with the students. Underclassmen joined fans still in the stands to cheer the seniors during their victory lap.

And even when some players tried to go into the locker room and out of the cold rain they had endured for over three and a half hours, tight end John Carlson called players back out of the tunnel to go back to the student section to thank their classmates for sticking out this game – and this season – with them.

“It’s kind of our way to show some thanks to them because I feel that they’ve stuck behind us all year long and we really appreciate that,” the fifth-year senior said.

And the team didn’t just go toward the students – it joined them.

Safety Tom Zbikowski, defensive end Trevor Laws and Carlson did their own mini-Lambeau Leaps into the student section. The students, desperate for one last souvenir from the Stadium, took their hats and wiped Zbikowski’s sweat on them.

Laws, responding to the students’ chants, followed Zbikowski into the stands to embrace any student lucky enough to be in the front row.

Carlson was smiling like a kid on Christmas when he went searching for an untouched piece of the section, wanting to become a more intimate part of the celebration.

‘That’s what it was all about. We were 1-9 and they were there with us the whole time. They stayed out in the freezing ran the whole game to be part of us. All the senior students, the whole student body, that’s part of our program, too,” Laws said. “It’s great, and I don’t think anywhere else, any other school in the nation has that kind of support. It’s just a great feeling.”

Irish coach Charlie Weis, an alumnus of Notre Dame who spent four seasons in the student section, understands that’s what makes Notre Dame great.

“[The players] don’t feel like they are segregated or on a pedestal,” Weis said. “They feel like they are part of that group, and I think that our players like to share those moments with the students, because the students are the ones that have been there for us during all these trials and tribulations.”

And even though the team hasn’t always seemed as loyal as the students to this close relationship, it tried to make up for it on Saturday.

What a difference a win makes.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Jay Fitzpatrick at jfitzpa5@nd.edu.