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Joseph: This Notre Dame stands together (Nov. 16)

Allan Joseph | Thursday, November 15, 2012

I’m a naturally garrulous person, so this is astonishingly rare: I have no words to describe this senior class.

No words, that is, except one: “We.”

It’s a simple, short word that gets used every day. But it’s a word that rarely gets used so authentically as with this senior class, this football program and this University.

Only here, and especially with this class, do we say “we” with the football team and mean it.

Why else would we storm the field after Stanford? Why were the cheers after beating Michigan so cathartic?

Forty-eight games ago, this senior class took Notre Dame Stadium for the first time against Nevada. The sun was shining, the hope had sprung anew and the chants of “Beat Wolfpack!” were so clear they reverberate in our memories even today. That 35-0 victory to open the season was the high point of 2009, and by the time we took our first set of finals, the man who had brought the football players among us to campus was gone.

Slowly, we grew. There were fits and starts: a big win at Boston College preceded consecutive ugly losses to Navy and Tulsa, which were of course followed by a long-awaited win over USC and a Sun Bowl romp over Miami. In the process, some transferred. Many more graduated.

Then what seemed like it could be our year – a healthy quarterback, an explosive offense and a scheduled night game against USC – got off to a stormy start against South Florida. That agonizing, drawn-out, heartbreaking day portended the rest of the 2011 season – and only got worse the next week in the Big House.

After the USC loss, Irish coach Brian Kelly got into some trouble by commenting on the players whom he didn’t bring here. It looked like two of the best talents on the roster were heading off to the NFL, and the quarterback position was up in the air again.

But Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert came back. They had unfinished business, they said. More importantly, they said they love Notre Dame. We do too – so we heard whispers of hope, but our doubts were shouting: Three straight heartbreaking losses to Michigan. Three straight mediocre seasons. And the hardest schedule in the country awaited.

Now? To accomplish this? The journey, long and arduous as it has been, has brought us to the cusp of the best Notre Dame football season since the legendary 1988 squad – the Lou Holtz-coached, national title-winning Irish forever etched in this program’s lore.

We were all years away from being born when that happened. We’ve never seen this before.

But for three years, we did see our classmates beside us in class. We saw them in the dining hall and in the dorms. And in those three years, we felt only that the football team was a part of us.

It’s not that there’s a special bond between the team and the student body. It’s that the team is simply a part of the student body.

Only at this University, and especially with this class, would the emotional leader of the football player both be a Heisman candidate and a guy who loved dorm life in Dillon Hall. Manti Te’o isn’t just the best representation of the football team, he’s the best representation of our student body: passionate, successful and driven – but with a heart for people above all.

Only at this University, and especially with this class, is it unthinkable to say “they won” after a game. It’s always “we won.” It’s always about us as a University – it’s easy to stay for the Alma Mater after a triple-overtime win to stay undefeated, but the student section was just as full at the end of the 2010 blowout loss to Stanford as it was two weeks ago.

Only at this University could we have this senior season. Because of this football team, we have “we.” What other words do we need?

 

Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu

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