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Football Commentary: Sharpley a model of true leadership

Chris Hine | Friday, October 19, 2007

Some people are good at hiding their emotions. Evan Sharpley is great at it.

Every week since the beginning of the season, Sharpley has had to come out and hide his disappointment with being the backup each week. He did it like a pro. Thanks to his calm personality, Sharpley hasn’t caused the team any distractions, despite his battle with freshman Jimmy Clausen for the starting position.

Tuesday, when Sharpley met the media after coach Charlie Weis said the junior quarterback would start against USC, his demeanor differed little from the past few weeks. We heard the same message from Sharpley about doing what he can to help the team win.

The stone-faced Sharpley barely cracked a smile when talking about his first career start.

“I think everybody wants to play,” Sharpley said. “If you don’t want that then you shouldn’t be playing.”

Clausen is the future of Notre Dame football, but right now, Sharpley deserves his chance. The offense moves the ball better with Sharpley under center and has the ability to put points on the board.

Sharpley threw for two touchdowns in Notre Dame’s 33-19 loss to Purdue on Sept. 29. He threw for one touchdown and had another called back in last week’s 27-14 loss to Boston College.

It’s hard to put a finger on just what happens to Notre Dame’s offense when Sharpley is out there, but something is different. The team perks up and raises its level of play.

Sharpley, also a member of Notre Dame’s baseball team, deserves to start not only for his play on the field, but also for his leadership off the field.

This season, Notre Dame saw four players leave the team for various reasons. Two of them, Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones, are quarterbacks. But Sharpley is sticking around.

Sharpley could have easily said, “Forget this. I’ll go quarterback somewhere else or go spend all of my time playing baseball.”

But he didn’t. He has remained on the team despite playing second fiddle to a freshman most of the season, and in the process he has become an invaluable asset to Notre Dame.

Sharpley is the perfect role model for a team filled with young, talented players who are anxious to get playing time.

If someone is frustrated with his lack of minutes, he should look to Sharpley. If someone feels the coaches are slighting him, he should look to Sharpley. And if someone thinks about giving up, he should look to Sharpley. Not once did Sharpley say he was getting an unfair shake or that his coaches were wrong. He has been a consistent leader.

Sharpley’s steady demeanor is just what this team needs in a turbulent season marked by multiple transfers and a 1-6 record. The younger players – and the veterans, for that matter – need someone to look up to. Sharpley is that guy.

So, when Evan Sharpley takes the first snap for Notre Dame on Saturday, he should have his teammates’ full confidence that he can get the job done. If the Irish end up losing, no one will take the loss harder than Sharpley. Odds are, he’ll blame it on himself.

But if Notre Dame wins Saturday, 80,000 people in the stands and millions more across the country will be smiling.

Hopefully, Evan Sharpley will let himself smile. He’s earned that much already.

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

Contact Chris Hine at [email protected]