Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

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

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18 NOV. 2, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TODD D. BURLAGE F or Notre Dame junior defen- sive tackle Myron Tagovailoa- Amosa, his 48 "rushing" yards and six seconds of fame in the Virginia game Sept. 28 were more than a year in the making. During a ferocious defensive ef- fort that sparked a 35-20 comeback win against the No. 18 Cavaliers, Tagovailoa-Amosa snatched out of midair a strip-sack fumble and un- expectedly found himself with the football in his arms and "only" 55 yards of green turf to a touchdown and a bucket list check mark. Wide-eyed and ready to rumble, the 285-pound Irish defensive tackle was "off to the races." "Don't fumble," Tagovailoa-Amosa admitted was the only thought in his head as his journey began. He's to the 40, the 30, the 20, the 15, the 10 … A lot winded and little ticked, Ta- govailoa-Amosa was finally caught from behind — seven yards from pay dirt — providing delicious fodder for his teammates after the win was secured. "The first thing everybody said, 'You're too slow, you're slow,'" Tago- vailoa-Amosa joked in recollection. "I was like, 'Leave me alone. I know.' "Whenever you have the ball in your hands, everybody just looks so much faster." Like a good-ol' fish story, the leg- end of Tagovailoa-Amosa's 48-yard fumble return keeps growing. All Irish players are equipped with a GPS "Catapult" system that tracks their position, distance, effort and, most importantly, their speed. And about 10 days after his mem- orable play, Tagovailoa-Amosa seemed ready to take on any Notre Dame wide receiver or defensive back in a foot race. "Coach [Brian Kelly] said I hit 21 miles an hour," he said with a straight face. When asked for confirmation, Kelly loved Tagovailoa-Amosa's surety, but questioned his legitimacy. "He can float that with you guys," Kelly joked, "but he was still closer to 17 or 18 [mph]." Speed debates aside, Tagovailoa- Amosa's career highlight to date serves as a perfect snapshot and just rewards for an impactful player who sat out essentially all of last year after suffering a broken foot in the season opener against Michigan. "I think if you pull for anybody," Kelly added, "you pull for a guy like Myron. God, he almost got into the end zone." STAYING OFF SCRIPT With 12 tackles and 13 appearances as a true freshman in 2017, Tago- vailoa-Amosa didn't waste any time making an immediate impact, even if he wasn't necessarily expected to do so. A consensus three-star recruit play- ing at far away Kapolei High School in Ewa Beach, Hawai'i, his recruiting rankings were abstract and all over the board. But his 34 tackles for loss and 18 sacks as a prep senior were con- crete, and the scholarship offers fol- lowed, predominately from West Coast schools and the military academies. Tagovailoa-Amosa's short list eventually dwindled to Notre Dame, USC and the U.S. Naval Academy, where his older brother, Adam, stud- ied and played football under vet- eran Midshipman head coach Ken Niumatalolo. "Myron was a highly recruited kid out of Hawai'i," Niumatalolo told The Baltimore Sun. "The only rea- son we had a shot was because his brother was here." The irony of Tagovailoa-Amosa's recruitment comes from a weekend trip to the West Coast that ultimately brought him to the Midwest. On a visit to USC as a high school senior Thanksgiving weekend of 2016, he was on campus and in attendance when the Trojans beat Notre Dame 45-27 in a regular-season finale game that dropped the Irish to 4-8 and gave USC its eighth-straight conquest. "You dream about being in mo- ments like that," Tagovailoa-Amosa said of that weekend and game expe- rience. "And for me, I just really had to sit back and soak in every bit of it." A Rose Bowl win for USC a month later lifted the Trojans to a No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, while Notre Dame had suffered its worst season in nine years and the second worst since 1963. Two pro- grams heading in different directions and USC being closer to his Hawai- ian home had to make this commit- ment decision an easy one. And given that Tagovailoa-Amo- sa's earlier recruiting visit to Notre Dame didn't come during an electric football weekend couldn't help ei- ther, right? "Even though I didn't go to a game at Notre Dame," he said, "I still really had to sit down and kind of acknowl- edge what really were the good parts of the visit here and things that I can relate to. The path that got me to Notre Dame was when I came here, I just felt so much at home." HALF A WORLD AWAY Family and faith are what drives Tagovailoa-Amosa, "then, every- thing else comes after that," he said. Both of those priorities are rooted in an upbringing that his late grand- father, Seu Tagovailoa, instilled through a culture based more on hard work and loyalty than down time and shortcuts. The eldest Tagovailoa was a wise patriarch and an influ- ential High Chief back home who Tagovailoa-Amosa said shared sim- ple biblical stories such as David and Goliath and the strength of Samson to inspire character and commitment. "He's really the one who got us into playing football," Tagovailoa- Amosa said of his grandfather. "He was the one who was really the foun- dation of our family." A poster board and pronunciation guide are mandatory tools when try- ing to document Tagovailoa-Amo- sa's robust family tree. One branch includes his first cousin, Tua Tago- FULL SPEED AHEAD Junior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is making his presence felt after missing 2018 with a broken foot

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