Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

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

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24 AUGUST 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY ASHTON POLLARD E verything was trending in the right direction for then-junior linebacker Marist Liufau. Then it all unraveled in a single mo- ment on Aug. 25, 2021. A native of Honolulu, Liufau was en- tering last fall as an upperclasman on a mission to top his previous season's work: three starts over 10 appearances with 22 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. His best single-game per- formance, a 6-tackle showing, came against Alabama in the Rose Bowl. What a perfect springboard into his third year. The news out of 2021 fall camp was nothing but positive. The 6-2¼, 229-pound linebacker was impressing then-defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and en route to not only ac- complishing the aforementioned goal but exceeding it. Phrases like "domi- nant playmaker" and "breakout poten- tial" were tossed out immediately by those with knowledge of Liufau's tra- jectory. He was a surefire starter at Will linebacker. It was his time. "He was one of our most dominant pass rushers," Freeman said of Liufau's August performance. "He's a super ver- satile player." With just less than two weeks until kickoff, Notre Dame was holding a live scrimmage. Liufau was hit and suffered a freak injury, a broken and dislocated an- kle that would require surgery and leave him sidelined for the duration of 2021. All that hype. All that work. All that time. The breakout season wasn't to be. But Liufau isn't the type of player to throw in the towel. He had waited two years to get his shot at a school 4,300 miles from home. The injury wasn't a closed door. It was just a delay. One year later, the door is now open. ALL SYSTEMS GO Liufau returned to the Irish Athletic Center on March 17 ready to turn the page. Spring practice — which is heavy on the installations, particularly with a new defensive coordinator in Al Golden — was set to begin, first with a few pe- riods of stretching. Liufau led one of about a dozen lines of players through calisthenics, an honor often reserved for a team leader. NEW YEAR, NEW PERSPECTIVES How an ankle injury and a new defensive coordinator provide linebacker Marist Liufau with a pair of fresh outlooks After making 22 tackles as a reserve in 2020, Liufau was the projected starter at Will linebacker heading into his junior year last fall before suf- fering a season-ending ankle injury in preseason practice. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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