Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2022

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM DECEMBER 2022 17 the stars — the same ones he peered up at with a bloody mug three years ago — for Rubio to latch onto the old guard. Angel Rubio was a seventh-round NFL Draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steel- ers out of Southeast Missouri State, where he set school records for sacks (21.5) and tackles for loss (44). Angel, a California kid with a scholar- ship offer to play for the Cal Bears, and his family moved to the Midwest to start a church close to the time when he had to choose a college. He went with his family, enrolled at Southeast Missouri State and carved out a professional career that spanned nearly a decade with stops in the NFL, XFL and AFL. Not bad for a walk-on who spurned a Power Five scholarship to be close to his new home while play- ing for a Football Championship Subdi- vision program. There are rewards in taking the tougher route. "I'm very big on teaching all my kids, my daughter included, what be- ing a Rubio means," Angel said. "We don't quit on anything. Everything we put our hand to we do with the most effort we possibly can. We see things through. Our word is our bond. Our yes is yes. Our no is no. We don't lie. If we say we're going to help somebody or do something, we do it." "Perseverance is definitely a value for me," Gabriel added. "It's been embodied into me because of where we're from. We don't like quitting. Quitting is like a cardinal sin in our house. "You always have to persevere, no matter what. Whether you want to quit or you don't feel like doing it, you have to do it to see the outcome of your la- bor." 'A DIFFERENT CREED' Angel is a firefighter, the same oc- cupation his father held, in addition to coaching the defensive line at Lutheran St. Charles. Gabriel wants to be one when his playing days are over. Angel hopes that isn't any time soon. The two put in too much work for that to be the case. Rubio's infatuation with football be- gan when Angel sat him through film study at 9 years old. He might have been the only kid at his elementary school that knew the difference between a base block and a reach block and what to do as a defensive lineman to combat both. Angel spent half an hour here and there going through the motions of different defensive lineman attacking mechanisms with Gabriel in the back- yard throughout his upbringing. "As I've grown as a player and as a person, I can see the drills he was doing with me were similar to the drills we're doing right now," Rubio said. "Very little has changed in that regard. Technique has always been a big emphasis when- ever I'm learning." Stuck behind a slew of elder defensive tackles on the Notre Dame roster, Rubio was not a focal point for Washington's unit early in the 2022 season. But when Jacob Lacey entered the transfer portal, Rubio was one of the next men up. He played a career-high 44 defensive snaps versus Stanford. In 24 snaps against Boston College, he logged 2 quarterback pressures and a career-high 3 tackles. Notre Dame defensive tackles Jayson Ademilola and Chris Smith are on the way out. A natural progression is lead- ing Rubio up the depth chart. So is what Harris described as a "blue-collar work ethic." "He follows a different creed," Harris said. "He puts in the work and doesn't expect anything to be handed to him." T h a t 's a by p ro d u c t o f ge t t i n g groomed by an NFL Draft pick in his father. And it's also a result of learn- ing from a head coach in Harris, who went undrafted as a running back out of Hofstra but overcame not playing his junior and senior seasons because of a knee injury and an eligibility is- sue, respectively, to sign with the St. Louis Rams and start six NFL games with them and the Detroit Lions over four seasons. He played in 56 career games and rushed for 497 yards and 6 touchdowns. Rubio started on the offensive and defensive lines for Harris. He was the team's left tackle. In a game toward the end of Rubio's senior season, Harris could tell the wear and tear of a long grind had taken its toll on Rubio. He had a sideline conversation with assistants that maybe it wasn't wise to run behind him as a lead blocker, which the offense had done time and again all year. Rubio overhead his coaches. "Let me go," Harris said Rubio told him. "We released him, and he put two huge blocks out there for us to score a touchdown." That's the player Notre Dame has in Rubio. He's not going to throw any blocks to set running backs Audric Es- time and Logan Diggs loose for scores, but he is going to do everything he can to shed them so opposing tailbacks are stopped in their tracks. Everything he's done since he was 9 has prepared him for that. "He's a tough individual," Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said. "He is high motor, high energy. He's exceeded my expectations from last year. "Did I think Gabe was going to be a good player? Absolutely. I didn't know how soon it was going to be. He's been a great addition for this team." ✦ Rubio, a sophomore, has been molded by his father, Angel, who was a seventh-round NFL Draft pick in 1998, and his coach at Lutheran St. Charles, Arlen Harris, who also played in the NFL. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER "Perseverance is definitely a value for me. It's been embodied into me because of where we're from. We don't like quitting. Quitting is like a cardinal sin in our house." RUBIO

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