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Setting the ‘Golden Standard’: TaRiq Bracy makes his mark as a leader

As a high schooler in Milpitas, California, TaRiq Bracy strived to play on the biggest stage that college football had to offer. That’s why selecting a school became easy when Notre Dame came calling.

“The combination of a great education and a Power Five football team is hard to resist,” Bracy said. “Notre Dame was my biggest offer and I wanted to show the world my skills.”

He would not have to wait long for that opportunity, appearing in 11 games as a true freshman cornerback. Fast forward five years, and he is a key cog of one of the nation’s best defenses, and perhaps just as importantly, one of Notre Dame’s primary leaders.

“It’s my fifth year here, so I’ve been able to play a lot of football. I’ve learned from mistakes, from the good and bad,” Bracy said. “The older guys pride ourselves on our leadership, being able to string some of the young guys along and create a solid defense, especially in the secondary.”

Despite an impressive high school career that saw him lead Milpitas to a state championship during his senior season, Bracy was overlooked by many top programs because of his slight stature. Seeing him on the field today, it is clear that hard work has resulted in significant improvements in his strength and physicality. However, his growth in the game’s mental aspects has played just as big a role in his development.

“Being able to get in the film room a lot, watching the opponent, learning their tendencies and what they like to do,” Bracy said about how he has improved at Notre Dame. “Being able to build up my body from my freshman year, because [low] weight had been a problem, that’s what the narrative was. I really honed in on trying to get my body stronger and being able to take hits and deliver hits as well.”

As part of Notre Dame’s defensive back rotation for the past five seasons, Bracy is among college football’s most experienced players. Freshman cornerbacks rarely receive significant playing time, especially for national championship contenders. Even so, Bracy was an important contributor to the 2018 Irish team that finished the regular season 12-0 and reached the College Football Playoff.

Having proven his ability to compete at a high level, Bracy took a huge step forward as a sophomore. He finished the 2019 season with 34 tackles and seven pass breakups while showing a knack for making big plays in timely moments, forcing one fumble and recovering two more. In Notre Dame’s third game of the season, the Irish traveled to Athens to face Georgia. Despite suffering a narrow defeat, Bracy describes it as the most memorable game of his career. The atmosphere was electric, College GameDay was in town and the game was a high-stakes, hard-fought battle between top-10 teams. Bracy, having grown up in a small town, said he never imagined playing under such bright lights, and he rose to the occasion, breaking up two Georgia passes in his performance.

The next two seasons saw Bracy play key roles for Irish teams that posted a combined regular season record of 21-1 and appeared in another College Football Playoff in 2020. He started in a memorable double-overtime victory against Clemson during his junior year and posted a career-high eight tackles while defeating Florida State in the same season. As a senior, Bracy recorded his first career interception, a highlight-reel play against Virginia Tech.

After graduating in 2022 with a degree in psychology, Bracy opted to return for a fifth season at Notre Dame. His play this year has made that decision look like a good one. Against BYU, he memorably intercepted a pass on the game’s opening play, setting Notre Dame up to earn a huge victory in Las Vegas. Weeks later, in front of a sold-out Notre Dame Stadium, Bracy brought down Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei for his first career sack, a play that helped guide Notre Dame to one of its biggest victories in recent memory. He attributes Irish performances like that to the high standard that every player holds themselves, and each other, to a mentality that he has helped cultivate as a defensive leader.

“The Golden Standard is what we pride ourselves on, and we don’t take anything less,” Bracy said. “Having that, along with great players and great coaches, it can come together very well.”

As his time at Notre Dame winds down, Bracy remains as locked in as ever, looking forward to the challenge of continuing to chase his goals at the next level.

“The NFL is my number one goal,” Bracy said. “I’ll be working towards that.”

The Irish defense will soon have to adjust to not having Bracy as a mainstay in the lineup for the first time in over half a decade. Until then, he will try to close out his illustrious Notre Dame career the only way he knows how: by leading the Irish to victory.

Contact Matthew Crow at mcrow@nd.edu.

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