Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

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

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56 NOV. 2, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY TODD D. BURLAGE "She may have lost this battle, but she won the war. She had a joyous life, full of adventure, good times and love. I guess God wanted her in heaven, it's easy to know why." RUSSELL PFLUEGER ON HIS WIFE, REBECCA T his heartfelt excerpt comes from a tribute written in Sep- tember by Russell Pflueger af- ter his wife, Rebecca, lost her battle with brain cancer one month before her 54th birthday. Beyond a source of pride and inspi- ration to her husband and best friend of 30 years, Rebecca was also a commit- ted and loving mother to her two sons, Devon and Charles "Rex" Pflueger. Devon is a 2017 graduate of USC who recently launched his career in finance and real estate around their hometown of Monarch Beach, Calif., near Los Angeles. Rex is a Notre Dame graduate stu- dent who already earned his market- ing degree. He is also a do-it-all Irish basketball guard and very much the glue for his team in the same way Rebecca was the glue for her family. "Rex sets the gold standard," ex- plained Notre Dame senior guard TJ Gibbs, when asked about the impor- tance of his teammate. "Everybody fol- lows his lead, feeds off of his energy." Rex wears a "Family Over Every- thing" tattoo above his heart and an EKG image of his mother's heartbeat rhythm on his left wrist, a tattoo that he kisses every night to forever thank his greatest fan. "Mentally, I think I'm doing pretty good, given the circumstances of everything," said Rex, who lost his mother about only 10 months after her diagnosis. "I've been blessed with a lot in my life. Family, they've taught me, well, opportunity. "I try not to dwell on too many of the negative things and just think about my blessings." One of the most important bless- ings Pflueger appreciates was the support of his Irish coaches and teammates during a time when he needed it in abundance. In the span of only about three weeks last December, Pflueger lost his fraternal grandmother, and shortly thereafter he faced the real- ity of his mother's Stage 4 diagnosis. These two real-life events under- standably dropped basketball pur- suits down his priority list, at least temporarily. Instinctively and on the urging of his mother, Pflueger realized that basketball was too important to sim- ply dismiss. The message from Re- becca was to push through, stay the course and make momma proud. "If you start fluctuating, you'll get too high or too low," explained Pflueger, who leaned on all things Notre Dame for therapeutic relief during his tough time. "Then if you hit a pitfall in life, you'll feel all sorts of whack." As if life hadn't already been cruel enough last December, Pflueger — while playing some of the best bas- ketball of his career — felt a snap in his left knee on a pivot move against Purdue, crumbled to the court and knew the diagnosis before it was even made official. Pflueger had a mangled ACL and his season was over, perhaps even his career. But the pain in his knee couldn't match the pain in his heart, Pflueger said in a story for The South Bend Tribune. "In my mind, I didn't even give a [expletive], to be honest with you," explained Pflueger of his initial re- action to an injury that required re- constructive surgery and months of Pflueger, a fifth-year senior, will give the Irish a boost with his steady, veteran presence this season. While he hopes to be on the court for the Nov. 6 opener against North Carolina, the Irish aren't going to rush his return from the torn ACL suffered last December. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN Forged By Fire Through challenge comes strength for Rex Pflueger Rex wears a "Family Over Everything" tattoo above his heart and an EKG image of his moth- er's heartbeat rhythm on his left wrist, a tattoo that he kisses every night to forever thank his greatest fan. PHOTO COURTESY REX PFLUEGER

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