Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 7, 2013 Issue

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

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Finding A Voice Junior linebacker Jarrett Grace is stretching his leadership legs at a previously cramped position J By Dan Murphy unior linebacker Jarrett Grace's potential to be a leader has long been apparent to those inside the Notre Dame locker room. Head coach Brian Kelly saw it before either of them arrived in South Bend, when he tried to convince the Ohio local to join him while coaching at Cincinnati. His teammates picked up on it before he took the field, stuck behind All-American Manti Te'o on the linebacker depth chart. A year ago, veteran safety Jamoris Slaughter and player development director Ernest Jones asked Grace, a secondstringer, to take a leading role in the team's religious fellowship group — a flourishing behind-the-scenes addition to the Irish program. Potential is little more than responsibility put off until a later date, a luxury that is steadily disappearing for Grace. He's no longer asked to stand in line and take notes. The junior is in front now, shifting into the starting role vacated by Te'o and shouldering at least some of the burden previously heaped on that spot. But a leader, especially one made to follow a legend, is not built at once. Piece by piece, Grace is beginning to find his voice. "The one thing he taught me was to focus on one thing at a time," Grace said about his two-year Te'o tutelage. "He was at the top of that pyramid, and you can't get to the top by putting that little peak down first. You've got to lay the base layers." Notre Dame set to serious work on Grace's foundation in the spring. At the time, he was a self-described "ball of energy," shooting around the field with the efficiency of a poorly tuned hot rod engine. The 6-3, 253-pound lifelong linebacker is physically capable of doing everything the Irish coaches ask of him. He's larger than an average middle linebacker, but provides an element of speed that helps him eliminate space faster than Notre Dame's other options at the position. He spent two years studying his reads and assignments. Now his challenge is putting all those things together instinctually rather than with robotic responses. "I feel like I've definitely matured in my game," Grace said. "Especially since the season has started. Each week gaining confidence and at the

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