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With a chip on his shoulder, Book channels underdog mindset to succeed

| Monday, September 2, 2019

In so many ways, Ian Book is the embodiment of Notre Dame football. A flashy but focused leader on the rise following two and a half years of playing backup, he’s ready to remind everyone why he belongs in the conversation of elite quarterbacks.

But despite all the glitz and glam that his game sometimes brings, there are some things that no amount of time — or games started — can change.

Observer File Photo
Irish quarterback Ian Book runs downfield during Notre Dame’s 48-37 victory over Wake Forest on Nov. 3, 2017 at Notre Dame Stadium.

While Book may have proven himself as the go-to guy for the program over the course of the 2018 season, his underdog mentality hasn’t change.

“I still feel like I’ve got a chip on my shoulder,” Book said. “I want to prove myself every single day and that probably won’t change. That won’t change.”

Book was just named as one of seven captains for the upcoming season, the first for a quarterback under head coach Brian Kelly. This vote of confidence from Kelly and his staff is even more impressive considering Book showed few signs of making a significant impact this time a year ago.

Then the season came.

Although the Irish won each of their first three matchups last season against Michigan, Ball State and Vanderbilt, they struggled to generate much meaningful offense and consistently seemed to hit a roadblock in the second half. Enter Book. He took over on the first road trip of the season for the Irish and showed a combination of style and fundamentals, burning Wake Forest for 325 passing yards and 47 rushing yards.

That game sparked what would result in an undefeated regular season for the Irish and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Much of this success was sparked by Book’s performance week in and week out.

Now firmly in the driver’s seat, Book is preparing to take on Louisville on the road Monday in the season opener. The Cardinals — who finished 2-10 last season — might seem like an easy win for Notre Dame, but Book knows the power of an underdog and is not looking to take any chances come Monday evening.

“I feel like every game at Notre Dame is kind of a statement game,” he said. “We’ve got a big target on our back. Lot of haters, lot of doubters out there, a lot of talk about not being in a conference and how you’ve got to win every game, whatever. We know that. You know, we try to treat every game like a playoff game. We definitely want to go 1-0. That’s what we’re thinking about and that’s what we’re focused on, just going down there and coming home 1-0.”

The Cardinals may not be the highest-profile opponent on Notre Dame’s schedule, but Monday night’s game will be the game to watch in college football.

“That’s why you come to Notre Dame,” Book said. “You want to play in those big games, whatever it may be. … We’ve got a lot to prove this year and we’re excited, and that’s why you come to Notre Dame — to play in those big games.”

Book credits his teammates and coaches for challenging him every day and raising the standard to which he holds himself.

“It’s a little different, obviously, to start the first week where last year I didn’t,” he said. “But I’ve been saying all the time since I’ve been here that I’ve been preparing every day like I’m the starter. Even when I’m able to go out there and start on Monday, it’s my job, you know, and I’ve got to prove that every day, and I’ve got a great quarterback group pushing me every day and a great quarterback coach pushing me every day. So, it just makes you work that much harder, honestly.”

Book’s incentive to work harder comes through constant evaluation and self-reflection, he said.

“After every game I go back and watch and just want to critique everything,” Book said. “There’s so much I can do to get better. I’m excited to go out there and prove that and show that. You know, every game there’s going to be plays [where] you’re going to come back and you’re like, ‘Alright, this what I’ve got to do next game to not let this happen again. I made that mistake, I can’t make it twice.’”

Behind Book’s laser-focused commitment to improving, he’s still just playing a game he loves.

“I think it’s going to be a big year for me, I’m excited,” he said. “I’m just excited. I don’t really know how else to put it. But I’m ready to go showcase out there on Monday, especially with this team.”

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