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Adams: If ND football players were Marvel superheroes

| Wednesday, October 7, 2020

When it comes to this, my word is gospel (or so I like to think anyway).

Athletes are the closest thing in everyday life to superheroes. Their physical prowess awes the masses. With that in mind, leave it to a wannabe Scene Writer like me to write a column combining my two greatest passions: sports and superhero movies.

So let this be either the greatest or stupidest piece I have ever written in my Observer tenure: making Notre Dame football comparisons to Marvel superheroes. Please enjoy…


Captain America — Daelin Hayes/Ade Ogundeji

OK, I’m cheating a little bit here, but they’re both defensive ends so I think this is acceptable.

The way that Hayes stepped up this offseason to lead this team in the midst of a global pandemic and protests over racial injustice spoke volumes. He’s arguably the biggest no-brainer choice for captain in Notre Dame program history. He’s the undisputed leader of the defense, which makes him Steve Rogers.

Ogundeji, on the other hand, has made a physical transformation akin to that of Rogers once receiving the coveted super soldier serum. Once a 210-pound recruit committed to Western Michigan, through five years in South Bend Ogundeji has morphed into a 6-foot-4, 268-pound havoc-wrecker on the edge. So yeah, Captain America seems right.

Now get these men a shield (or two).


Iron Man — Tommy Tremble

The term “Iron Man” is thrown around in sports for athletes who simply refuse to miss time for injury. It just seems most appropriate that the guy who said, “I love contact,” after abusing USF in the run blocking game — and who shows plenty of resourcefulness as a pass catcher/fullback — would be compared to the guy who built an iron suit to escape a cave and save the world (or, in this case, Notre Dame’s championship hopes). So Tremble is Tony Stark; don’t at me.


Thor (‘Ragnarok’/‘Infinity War’) — Kyle Hamilton

I think we can all agree the best Thor is the short-haired, joke-cracking, lighting-fisted and Stormbreaker-wielding Thor from “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

He’s flying around wrecking enemies, and it seems like Hamilton is doing the same thing in the secondary. Sometimes Hamilton’s tackles — though not quite on the same level, but close — are even reminiscent of Thor making a grand lightning-soaked entrance to Wakanda in Infinity War, so this seemed fitting.


Thor (pre-‘Ragnarok’/‘Endgame’) — Marist Liufau

Last year I would have given this to Trevor Ruhland because of the luscious mane and beard on that man, but now I have to go with Liufau. That hair, man. No one (except Stan Lee as an intergalactic barber) is touching that flow.


Black Panther — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

It’s arguable that Notre Dame’s most important defensive position is the rover, the niche outside linebacker/safety hybrid role frequently tasked with bringing pressure, stopping runs and dropping into coverage. It requires a level of awareness and agility, exemplified by JOK, that reminds a Marvel nerd, such as me, of King T’Challa’s panther-like abilities. (R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman).


Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — Liam Eichenberg

Oh, how perfectly it would fit if we still had Quinton Nelson at left guard. But with Q and Mike McGlinchey both gone to the NFL, Eichenberg is the next closest thing to a gamma radiation-infused berserker on the O-line. If only the Hulk wore a jean jacket instead of purple shorts, this would be absolutely perfect.

And I’m making the distinction between Ruffalo’s Hulk and Edward Norton’s because, well…


Hulk (Edward Norton) — purple-faced Brian Kelly circa 2011 vs. USF

This seemed appropriate because a) much like Norton as the Hulk, Notre Dame and Marvel fans like to pretend these respective incidents never occurred, and b) Kelly’s face during that game actually did match the color of comic book Hulk’s shorts.


Winter Soldier — Shaun Crawford

I’m really tempted to go with Crawford as Nick Fury here because, as another team captain alongside Hayes, Crawford is orchestrating the defensive troops while also boasting some scars (though no eye patch). But c’mon, man. it has to be Winter Soldier.

Crawford’s had so many season-ending injuries; you’d think the only way he could go through all of that and still end up a starter in his sixth year at Notre Dame is by having a bionic appendage attached.


Spider-Man — Ben Skowronek

Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a far cry from Queens, New York, but the hands on this man. My goodness. You’d think Skowronek was bitten by a radioactive spider the way he makes the ball stick to his hands. For context I refer you to his snag against Notre Dame in 2018 while still a member of Northwestern, as well as his diving TD grab to clinch the Big Ten West title against Iowa the same year.


Quicksilver — Braden Lenzy

Was Braden Lenzy an Oregon high school track star? I feel like I heard that once (or a million times from Mike Tirico and Doug Flutie/Tony Dungy anytime Notre Dame plays), but maybe I’m imagining things.

Jokes aside, when you think speed on this Notre Dame team, for the last two years you’ve probably been thinking of Lenzy (or maybe Chris Tyree, but we’ll get to him momentarily). Lenzy has also been injury-prone, so let’s just hope if there’s another in the future that he sees that one coming, unlike a certain speedster (too soon?).

And on the topic of speed…


Ant-Man — Chris Tyree

This was basically between Tyree and Crawford, but the latter already got his comparison. Tyree stands 5-foot-9-and-a-half according to his Notre Dame athletics page. Despite his stature, he’s shone not only his speed, but the ability to pack a mean punch when he gets a head of steam, so we’re going with Ant-Man. And speaking of heads of steam…


Punisher — C’Bo Flemister

I know, I know. Technically the Punisher isn’t in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just their Netflix TV show sphere. That said, I wanted to give Flemister a shoutout here for the way he bulldozed South Florida. He seems like Notre Dame’s most punishing running back, so this seemed an apt assignment.

Notre Dame Athletics
Irish junior running back C’Bo Flemister eludes a defender during Notre Dame’s 52-0 shutout win over South Florida on Sept. 19 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Drax — Bo Bauer

Bauer’s a loose cannon on special teams. He seems like the type to jump into the belly of a space worm to cut it open from the inside, despite the fact that it’s the same thickness inside and out. It’s the perfect temperament to match the wild Drax from the Guardians of the Galaxy films.


Korg — Brock Wright

Remember Korg? The sentient pile of rocks making rock-paper-scissors jokes in a New Zealand accent and tagging along with Thor in “Ragnarok?” Brock Wright gives me a lot of those same vibes, mostly because he’s just … there.

Don’t get me wrong, Wright seems like a nice guy (like Korg), and he can help some on the (battle)field just by nature of being big and strong (or made of rocks), but he hasn’t yet proven to be — and I don’t know if he will ever become — an A-list member of the team. For now, though, I guess it’s cool to have him tagging along for the ride, because he doesn’t seem to be doing any harm.


Doctor Strange — Avery Davis

This is probably a stretch, but here’s my reasoning: Doctor Strange was a bit of a journeyman. He went from world-renowned surgeon to out of work and homeless to apprentice sorcerer to Sorcerer Supreme; Davis has gone from quarterback to running back to cornerback to wide receiver now in his senior campaign. Seems close enough to me.


Hawkeye — Jonathan Doerer

Let’s get serious for a minute (if you haven’t been taking the previous assignments as seriously as I have, that is). It’s pretty easy to take the guy whose whole M.O. is kicking a ball between the uprights and compare him to the guy whose job description is shooting a bow and arrow.

To be clear, Ian Book was Hawkeye in 2018 when he completed over 70% of his passes through his first five starts — including two games over 80%. He’s since become Hawkeye if Hawkeye were riding a horse backwards and drunk while blindfolded — and singing the Canadian national anthem for good measure. So I’m going with Doerer, who, although he did miss a chippie against South Florida, has been a revelation the last two years at place kicker.

As for Book though…


Agent Coulson — Ian Book

Yes, Phil Coulson. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who made his debut in “Iron Man” (2008), was killed off by Loki in Marvel’s “Avengers” (2012), resurrected in the ABC series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (2013-2020) and then killed off again and brought back as an inter-dimensional villain and android in later seasons (or something like that; I stopped watching after the fifth season). Ian Book is that guy.

Book was an under the radar guy whose greatest successes came through a high-completion percentage and a balanced, move-the-chains style offense. But then he suffered his greatest defeat at the hands of Clemson (in this case filling the role of Loki). That was a season where he took over for Brandon Wimbush, but after a spring it was clear it was Book’s team, representing Coulson’s transition from film to headlining his own TV show.

But just when you think Book and his offense will be the hottest thing on the block, it underwhelms. What’s more, it’s like he’s turned into someone completely different. Last season saw him unleash havoc against subpar competition in the wake of the Michigan loss, almost like an (aforementioned) inter-dimensional villain. Plus, without a solid run game, it was in a completely revamped premise for the offense (kind of like introducing time travel into a show five seasons in to keep things fresh).

But now, Book is like a shell of himself (like an android). He didn’t look good against Duke or even really against South Florida in the passing game. Granted, his receivers aren’t what they have been, but he missed as many passes behind the line of scrimmage against Duke (three) as he missed in all of 2018 combined.

Book is Coulson because he thrives against the lower level opposition, and with some help, he can put up a fight against the mid-level baddies (re Marvel: Obadiah Stane, Justin Hammer, etc.). However, until he shows me some hidden abilities like super speed and strength, a flying metal suit or magical axe, I cannot see him taking down the god-tier threats. And make no mistake, Dabo Swinney is Thanos and Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne headline his Black Order.

Notre Dame fans need to know that Book will put up more of a fight against that level of competition than a guy with a robot hand and a handful of B- and C-list celebs alongside because Book does have better weapons than that (as I have illustrated).

So there you have it. Was this the greatest or stupidest piece you have ever had the absolute pleasure of reading in your time following The Observer? No need to respond; I know the answer is yes to both.

Now, it is time to turn my attention to my next great adventure: comparing Notre Dame football players and coaches to Harry Potter characters. Stay tuned.

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

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden