Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM OCT. 8, 2022 17 when he arrived as a freshman, even when he turned heads as a scout team player in 2019. "Ever since his freshman year, he has been so freakishly explosive off the line," senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey said. "In his freshman year, even the starters — seniors and juniors — weren't able to block Howard sometimes." Cross hasn't stopped confounding blockers since. An impressive fresh- man year behind the scenes turned into a back-of-the-rotation role in 2020. He became the No. 2 nose tackle in 2021 and started two games, excelling at a posi- tion that wasn't his preference — that's three-technique — but fit him anyway. He wedged his way into the starting lineup this year because he left the Irish coaches no other choice. Along the way, a player who won- dered himself if he could hold his own saw game after game and practice after practice of confirmation he belonged. Opponents, though, still leave games surprised that a 6-foot-1, 276-pound interior lineman can make their job so difficult. "People don't think that I'm as strong as I am," Cross said. "After every game, the O-line comes over and is like, man, you're really good for your size.' It was a chip on my shoulder when I first came to college, because a lot of schools would literally come to me and say, 'You are an outstanding athlete. You're just not 6-3 and we're not going to offer you. "The one person that's also 6-1, 275 in the NFL is Aaron Donald. No one likes to mention that." External skepticism won't morph into self-doubt. Not anymore. These days, he just needs to read the stat sheet to find proof he's more than meets the eye. Not that he needs any more proof himself. "I've been somebody who constantly doubted himself, constantly didn't think he could," Cross said. "Saying that I'm fully capable in my abilities and cam beat you, that's pretty big for me." ✦ "I've been somebody who con- stantly doubted himself, con- stantly didn't think he could. Saying that I'm fully capable in my abilities and can beat you, that's pretty big for me." CROSS Cross was Notre Dame's leading tackler with 21 stops through three games. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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