Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2024

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM FEBRUARY 2024 43 IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE S t. Louis native and former Irish All- American tailback Kyren Williams grew up a huge Rams fan as a youngster. More specifically he was a huge fan of star Rams tailback Steven Jackson in the late 2000s. During a 26-25 win over the New York Giants Dec. 31, Williams joined his hero as the two most recent Rams running backs to post at least 100 scrimmage yards in seven straight games. Williams recorded 20 carries for 87 yards with a career-high 3 touchdowns against the Giants, and added 2 recep- tions for 14 yards, giving him 101 scrim- mage yards in the playoff-clinching win for the Rams (9-7). Despite missing four games from Oct. 16 to Nov. 25 with an ankle injury, Wil- liams still headed into the final week of the NFL regular season ranked second in the league with 1,144 rushing yards, and his 15 total touchdowns was tied for third. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford explained how Williams' 87 rushing yards against the Giants didn't come easily — in fact, it marked his fewest in the last seven games — but he cel- ebrated Williams' patient approach. "It wasn't like he was ripping for 8, 9, 10 yards," Stafford said. "But I thought he did a great job of just picking and choosing his spots." Williams — a 2022 fifth-round draft pick of the Rams — has rushed for at least 100 yards six times this season, all in his last nine games. That includes a season-high 158 rushing yards in a 26-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals Oct. 15. Williams' ascent has helped the Rams to three straight wins, six victories in their last seven games, and a return to the playoffs after missing the cut in 2022 following their Super Bowl win after the 2021 campaign. SIX NOTRE DAME PRODUCTS SELECTED TO 2024 NFL PRO BOWL Six players from Notre Dame have been selected to participate in the NFL's 2024 Pro Bowl: Colts offensive guard Quenton Nelson and Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton from the AFC, and Cowboys kicker Brandon Aubrey, Cowboys of- fensive guard Zack Martin, Rams run- ning back Kyren Williams and Seahawks safety Julian Love from the NFC. Nelson, Hamilton, Aubrey and Martin were named starters. Nelson became the 15th player since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to make a Pro Bowl roster in six consecutive sea- sons to begin a career according to a press release from the Colts. Martin, meanwhile, accomplished the same feat from 2014-19. He did not make the Pro Bowl in 2020, but this is his ninth overall selection in the last 10 years. ✦ Rams Tailback Kyren Williams Enjoying Stellar Season Williams ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,144) and was tied for third in total touchdowns (15) heading into the 9-7 Rams' regular-season finale Jan. 7, despite playing in just 12 contests. PHOTO BY BREVIN TOWNSELL/COURTESY LOS ANGELES RAMS FIGHTING IRISH HEADLINERS Brandon Aubrey, (Played soccer at Notre Dame from 2013-16), PK, Dallas Cowboys (NFL) The magical season for the NFL rookie kicker rolled on in a 20-19 win over the Lions Dec. 30, when the St. Louis native converted both his field goal attempts to improve his record-setting rookie mark to 35 of 35 on the season. Through 17 weeks, Aubrey also led all NFL kickers with a 93.1-percent touch- back rate. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (2017-20), LB, Cleveland Browns (NFL) In a 37-20 win over the Jets Dec. 28, the former Irish All-American linebacker recorded 11 tackles — his second most of the season — including 7 solo stops. On track for a Pro Bowl invitation, the Hampton, Va., native led the Browns with 101 tackles, plus had 3.5 sacks and 2 interceptions, through 16 games. Durham Smythe (2013-17), TE, Miami Dolphins (NFL) Despite a 56-19 loss to the Ravens Dec. 31, the former Irish standout continued his late-season surge with 3 receptions for 54 yards. One game earlier in a 22-20 win over the Cowboys, the Havertown, Pa., native recorded 5 catches for 56 yards — both season highs.

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