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Despite injury, Bars leads O-line by example

| Friday, November 9, 2018

While the Irish are in the midst of a perfect 9-0 season, Notre Dame’s undefeated run over the last 10 weeks hasn’t come without its losses in other ways. Most notably, the loss of senior starting offensive guard Alex Bars to a season-ending knee injury. A loss that head coach Brian Kelly described as “devastating” to the team.

Bars, who started in every game over the past two seasons leading up to his injury, was named captain of the 2018 team and a Preseason First-Team All-American. Bars is the type of player every coach wants on his team, which is why the morale of the coaches and players took a hit when he went down. Despite the major setback Bars had to face after sustaining his injury in Notre Dame’s week-5 victory over Stanford, the 6-foot-6, 315-pounder has remained positive.

Ann CAnn Curtis | The Observer
Irish graduate-student offensive lineman Alex Bars prepares to take off the line of scrimmage in Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Even though I can’t be out there on the field battling with my brothers, I try to help in any and every way possible,” Bars said. “I’m talking to the guys in the locker room constantly, trying to help with their techniques, and even though I want to be out there, I’m doing everything I can to help our team win from the sidelines.”

This team-first attitude began early for Bars, who comes from a football family. His dad played for Notre Dame from 1981 to 1984, and his two older brothers both played collegiate football as well, at Penn State and Michigan.

“Since my dad played here during the ’80s, I grew up loving and rooting for Notre Dame,” Bars said. “When it came to recruiting, I was a freshman in high school when Notre Dame first started looking at me, and with my two older brothers at Penn State and Michigan, I knew I wanted to follow through and play for the Irish.”

Despite the adversity he’s faced in his five years with the Irish, Bars has felt “100 percent” affirmed in his decision to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

“The teammates and friends that I have been able to make over the last couple of years are incredible, and I’ve had an unbelievable experience during my time here,” Bars said.

That connection to his dad, Joe, who he described as the single-most-influential person in his life, was one of the deciding factors in joining Brian Kelly’s program, Bars said.

“My dad has always taught me to be the best possible person I can be, and instilled in me a lot of values that make a great man,” he said. “He was obviously a big influence in my decision to come play football here at Notre Dame, and I couldn’t be happier that he pushed me forward in the right direction.”

Reflecting on his time spent playing at Notre Dame, Bars noted that he has learned lessons that he will carry with him forever.

“I’ve learned that you have to constantly develop yourself in order to become the best version of yourself possible,” he said. “There are no limitations to what you can do if you put yourself in a position to succeed, and to be who you are and get where you want to be it takes hard work and dedication to the craft.”

While Bars has experienced many highs and lows during his time at Notre Dame, he said two games stand out in his career.

“I’d say the most memorable experience I’ve had here would either have to be our win in the season-opener against Michigan this year or our win against USC last year,” Bars said. “Both games were hard-fought, and I’m glad we were able to come out on top in both cases, especially against two of our biggest rivals.”

From the very beginning of his Notre Dame career, Bars was taken aback by the brotherhood and camaraderie in the locker room.

“You can’t find a culture like the one we have here at Notre Dame anywhere else,” he said. “Everybody in the locker room is focused on the same goal — winning in any way that we can — and my teammates are friends that I know will be in my life forever. When I was a sophomore first starting, the older guys took me in and kind’ve showed me the way, and now it is my job to do that for all of the young guys here now.”

In terms of his future, Bars is doing everything he can to get healthy and back into playing form. That forward-looking perspective has led Bars through much adversity throughout his time in South Bend, but it’s also proving to be the thing that lifts him over this obstacle.

“I’m rehabbing at Notre Dame right now, and so far it’s been going well. The goal for me is still to get to the NFL and play at the next level, and I’m working very hard to make sure that happens,” Bars said. “I have my finance degree in case things don’t go as planned, but I am still hoping for the best. At the same time, we have a national championship to play [for], we’re taking it one game at a time and I’m focused on our season right now.”

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