The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



JAKE CARNEY: Off-the-field moments most meaningful for Carney

Kyle Cassily | Friday, November 18, 2005

Irish defensive back Jake Carney has excelled in athletics his entire life, including football, basketball and track, but the senior recognizes no greater influence on his accomplishments than his family.

His father was a linebacker and later a team doctor for the Air Force Academy. His uncle was a wide receiver at UCLA. Both men have been his greatest role models throughout his life.

“Both of them did very well at football, but always stressed the full package,” Carney said. “They always pushed me as strongly towards academics and social issues and that kind of thing better than, maybe, at times, more than football, itself. I think they really taught me to just try to excel at everything as hard as you can, because you really never know what you’re going to be best at when it comes down too it.”

On the field, the swift defensive player thrives on special teams. He has been a steady contributor on Irish kickoff, kick return and punt teams, the stage for his most memorable football moment.

Carney started on special teams Oct. 15 against USC and was on the field for Tom Zbikowski’s punt return for a touchdown and the ensuing end-zone celebration. He said the moment will stick with him forever.

“I think that’s as fun a moment as any play on the field,” Carney said. “It’s a party with your teammates. It’s a great feeling, because you get to experience it with these guys that you’ve worked so hard with.”

Carney was highly recruited coming out of Lexington Catholic High School in Kentucky as he played on both sides of the ball and special teams. Numerous Big-10 and Pac-10 schools gave him offers, but, in the end, it came down to Michigan, Stanford and Notre Dame.

“You got the academics, you got the athletics, you got the social atmosphere, the spiritual atmosphere in both places,” Carney said of his decision, which came down to Notre Dame and Stanford. “But nothing compares to the feeling you get stepping on this campus. That sealed it. It had everything else I was looking for, it felt extremely right.”

The on-field rewards of playing for Notre Dame will never leave Carney, but it is the off-field friendships with teammates that will truly stick with him.

He initially met many of his future teammates during the Army-All America Bowl his senior year of high school, where he roomed with future collegiate star Maurice Clarett. From those first meetings, through countless grueling summer workouts, to celebrations in Notre Dame Stadium and the locker room, Carney has forged unbreakable bonds with his teammates.

“We’re not always the ones making the plays on the field, but when we do get on the field, we do our best to make plays and have the opportunity to make plays,” he said of his fellow upperclassmen. “I have a blast with it. The amount of leadership, it’s just amazing. Helping guys academically, helping guys socially, helping guys on the field where you can, we’re a tight knit group everywhere.”

The season is nearing its end. Within the year, Carney’s class will go its separate ways, but the memories he has had with them will remain.

He recalls a moment from his freshman year during the winter’s first snow storm, one early morning when he and his classmates had just left a study hall together. A snowball fight erupted between them and the women’s softball team.

“We were getting it put to us pretty badly,” he said.

Soon nearby male dorms had emptied to join in the fight on the quad, and the football freshman knew a last-ditch charge was the only option left to him.

“The games will always be memorable and the pep rallies will always be memorable, but nothing beats everyday coming into the locker room and goofing off with your buddies and playing around with your buddies and going out with your buddies and doing everything with your buddies,” Carney said. “I think that’s what I’ll definitely miss the most, the people and the relationships I made here.”