Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 NOV. 26, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED B y this point in the career of Notre Dame senior Alizé Mack, logic suggested the tight end would have filled at least a couple of full pages in the Irish football media guide with a long list of highlights, standout games, awards and honors. Instead, the list of accomplish- ments after his first three years in the football program fit in only one column. When Mack arrived from football powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, he was rated as the No. 1 tight end in the country by almost every recruiting website — a can't-miss prospect. With good size, soft hands, solid speed, Mack (6-5, 240 pounds in high school) was the next elite enrollee at Tight End U, and many suggested he would climb to the head of the class during his time at Notre Dame. Instead, Mack's career timeline looks like this. As a freshman in 2015, he lived up to the recruiting hype and burst onto the scene with 13 receptions for 190 yards, including a memorable 45-yard snag in the fourth quarter at Temple that set up a game-winning touchdown in a 24-20 Irish win. As a sophomore in 2016, Mack missed the entire season because of academic probation. Mack returned as a junior in 2017 and started fast with 17 catches through the first six games, only to be slowed by concussion issues and limited to only two catches and about a half a dozen dropped balls in the final six regular-season games. He eventually received a suspension for the Citrus Bowl and was left home. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long didn't mince words in the preseason when he was asked what to expect from his talented but incon- sistent tight end. "You don't get another senior year. It's time to decide what kind of player you want to be," Long said, "what kind of legacy you want to leave, and if this game is important to you." The message took, and Mack's transformation has been remarkable. Through his first three full years and 23 games at Notre Dame, Mack had 32 catches for 356 yards and one touchdown. In his first 10 games this season, he had 30 catches for 279 yards and three touchdowns, includ- ing a two-score performance in a 42-13 pasting of Florida State Nov. 10. Head coach Brian Kelly has listed a number of his veteran players this season who are reaping the rewards of finally putting in the work, and Mack is one of them. Running back Dexter Williams and wide receiver Miles Boykin are a cou- ple of other Irish seniors who needed an extra year or two to become an overnight success. "Some guys take longer than oth- ers when they're between the ages of 18 and 22 years old," Kelly ex- plained. "And you don't know when that happens." Increased on-field production this season is only one small part of Mack's rebirth. Mack is back on pace to graduate — he even carried a 3.5 GPA during summer school — with a degree in film, television and theatre. He's one of the first players to practice and one of the last to leave, after a history of taking the opposite approach, and he has nearly perfect attendance in everything from school and game film study to practice and team meetings. "Seeing where I am now versus last year, I can see that my prepa- ration wasn't where it should have been. It's that simple," said Mack, who has another year of eligibility that few believe he will use. "If you watch the film and you go and work hard day in and day out, it will show on Saturdays, and I wasn't doing that." Looking back now at all the chal- lenges and struggles, the down days and disappointments, Mack could have easily transferred to another school. But he didn't, and this late- bloomer needs to be commended for his pride and perseverance. "The great thing about it for him is he stuck with it," Kelly said. "When there were low points, when he could have walked away, he knew he shouldn't have and he hung in there. All the credit goes to him." ✦ Alizé Mack Yet Another Irish Late Bloomer UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Through 10 games, Mack had already set career highs in receptions (30), receiving yards (279) and touchdown catches (three). PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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