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Evan Sharpley: Steady Hand

Chris Hine | Friday, November 21, 2008

After Brady Quinn graduated in May of 2006, Evan Sharpley was one of four possible candidates to replace Quinn as the starting quarterback. But Sharpley wouldn’t lead the offense against Georgia Tech to open the 2007 season. Demetrius Jones did. Sharpley may have been upset, but he didn’t show it.

Then when Sharpley was by-passed again for the starting job the following week, again he didn’t show his disappointment. And when Sharpley wasn’t named the starter after he relieved Clausen against Purdue and threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns, Sharpley didn’t complain.

Sharpley didn’t complain after he started against Southern Cal, but then lost the job following Notre Dame’s loss to Navy and, finally, as he realized Clausen would the quarterback this season.

“I didn’t really expect that. That was something that was talked about in the spring. Jimmy’s getting the job and it was his job to lose,” Sharpley said. “We all backed him and supported him and he’s doing a good job for us and as a team we need to support him. That’s the type of guy I am, that’s kind of my M.O.”

Sharpley didn’t transfer, as Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones did, he didn’t cause dissension amongst his teammates; rather, he stayed at Notre Dame and did all he could to help his team.

“Any time someone else is named ahead of you, no one wants to sit the bench, everyone wants to play. When something like that happens, it’s tough,” Sharpley said. “We all put in hard work. I thought I put in a lot of hard work, but that’s up to the coaches and you have to be supportive and be there for the rest of the team.”

Sharpley’s glad he stayed because his time on the team at Notre Dame has taught him a lot and prepared him for life after college.

“I have this conversation all the time with a lot of people and my teammates as well. They have my respect and it’s a tough situation for our team, but I think I’ve earned a lot of people’s respect and you can never get too down,” Sharpley said. “Even if something’s bad, it’s always in God’s hands and you may not understand the reason why it’s happening, and it maybe out of your control, but the only thing you can control is your attitude.”

This year, Sharpley’s attitude has been instrumental in helping develop Clausen and freshmen Dayne Crist and Nate Montana. Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus said Sharpley has a calming effect on the team.

“Evan’s been vitally important,” Powlus said. “Evan is a great teammate, he’s got good leadership qualities. He’s a guy the guys really rely on in the room for his experience and knowledge. Evan doesn’t have a lot of experience on the field, but as far as the playbook and what to do and how to look at things, that can be invaluable to these younger guys. There’s no doubt, he’s a huge asset …

“I think Evan brings a certain level of normalcy to our room. He’s been through it now for four years and he’s not too off kilter and normalcy is what we need right now.”

Sharpley said both freshmen have done a good job adjusting to Notre Dame, both on and off the field.

“I roomed with Nate during camp and both he and Dayne have done a great job picking up the offense,” Sharpley said. “I think it’s good for them to have guys like Jimmy and myself that have already been here for a while, not only running the offense and getting comfortable with college football, but also getting comfortable with the college life. It’s a lot different than high school, the classes, the girls, different things like that. We’ve had a good time and we’ve really become pretty close.”

Sharpley and the other quarterbacks are such good friends that they formed their own society – the red army.

“Early on in camp, I came up with a nickname for the quarterbacks,” Sharpley said with a smile peaking through. “We all wear red jerseys during practice so I coined ourselves the ‘red army.’ We have our own secret codes and we have secret missions. It’s pretty good stuff. We have our own secret names. I could probably give you some stuff, but there’s too much classified information. We’ll just put it this way, I’m the leader of the red army and they kind of follow my lead.”

But when he’s not joking around, Sharpley said he tries to pass along to the younger quarterbacks the same lessons Quinn taught him when he was a freshman and sophomore.

“I think I learned from the work ethic that he had, studying film off the field, the type of person that he was off the field and on the field the type of leader he was with the guys and also the type of student he was,” Sharpley said. “I was like that before, but I think it was also good to see someone doing it himself.”

Sharpley said Quinn helped him navigate through his challenging freshman season, when Sharpley didn’t see any action.

“Everybody usually comes from a situation where you’re playing all the time, so it’s kind of tough as a freshman to come in and not play, but I understood that obviously,” Sharpley said. “It was an opportunity for the first two years to sit behind Brady, and watch him do well and learn from him and I think I’ve taken a lot of his game, a lot of his personality both on and off the field and try to tailor it to my game.”

And Sharpley said his relationship with Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis has become stronger over the past few years.

“It’s progressed greatly since freshman year,” Sharpley said. “With me as a freshman and him coming in as a new head coach, it was a little different and I think now him and I have a very good relationship, him helping with my future and different talks. He’s really become a pretty good players’ coach. I think he’s really on board with helping us players whether it’s on the football field, playing professionally in the near future, or getting a job, something in the real world.”

Sharpley, who’s also a member of Notre Dame’s baseball team along with his brother Ryan, can apply for a fifth-year on the football team, but not on the baseball team. He said he’ll make that decision later this year.

“It’s going to be all baseball in the spring and I need to do very well and help my team win and we’ll take it from there, but once the spring comes around, we’ll be focused on baseball,” Sharpley said.

Sharpley may not have played as much he wanted to during his Notre Dame football career, but even if he doesn’t come back for a fifth year, it’s clear that his impact will be felt in the program for years to come.