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irish insider

Jafar Armstrong helps fill in one of the most prolific backfields in the country

| Friday, December 18, 2020

Jafar Armstrong’s Notre Dame career has been defined equally by moments of glory and setbacks. A member of the scout team his freshman year, Armstrong burst on to the scene in 2018 following the absence of then-senior running back Dexter Williams. While Armstrong has battled injuries and the constantly competitive depth chart, the Kansas City native has continued to make himself valuable to this Notre Dame offense.

Prior to Notre Dame, Armstrong was a standout athlete at Kansas powerhouse Bishop Meige. On the football field, Armstrong led the Stags to three consecutive state championships and recorded a state-record 45 touchdown receptions. But Armstrong’s talent didn’t stop on the turf. His junior year he won three track state championships, leading Bishop Miege to its first and only boys track & field championship. The three-star wide receiver picked the Irish over Minnesota, Missouri and Baylor and enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business.

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish senior wide receiver Jafar Armstrong runs with the ball during Notre Dame’s 33-9 win over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28 at Camping World Stadium.

After serving as one of five scholarship freshman key to the Irish offensive scout team report, Armstrong earned a spot in the lineup heading into his sophomore season. With Williams out the first four games of the season, Armstrong was named the primary ball carrier. In Notre Dame’s marquee season opener against Michigan, Armstrong gave the Irish a quick 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter with back-to-back touchdowns. He led the Irish run game in two of the next three games, including a 56-27 road win against Wake Forest that marked the debut of the Ian Book era. Armstrong’s speed and creativity out of the pocket made him a dual threat to both offensive lines and secondaries as opponents tried to contain the Irish offense.

As Williams was set to return and Armstrong playing at the top of his game, the Irish anxiously awaited the dual-threat run game against No. 7 Stanford. The day before the game, however, it was announced that Armstrong was sidelined due to an infection in his left knee. Armstrong went on to miss two more games and struggled to return to full capacity while Williams opened the game with a 45-yard touchdown and never looked back, leading the Irish to an undefeated regular season and their first College Football Playoff berth.

The following season offensive coordinator Chip Long found himself with a vacancy at running back as veterans such as Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr. duked it out with newcomers Jahmir Smith and Braden Lenzy. Armstrong earned the start in the season opener against Louisville but suffered a groin injury in the first two minutes of play that caused him to miss the next four games. He eventually returned to play and capped off the season with a one-yard touchdown against Iowa State at the Camping World Bowl.

Despite the injuries and setbacks Armstrong has faced, he continues to be a key member of the prolific Irish run game. He’s appeared in every game this season, recording 25 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against South Florida. With the potential for each game from this point on to be Armstrong’s last, Irish fans should look to see more of that dual-threat talent.

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