Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 16, 2015 Issue

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

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Page 109 of 111

THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI I n the Notre Dame football media relations press release the week of the Pitt game, a stat in the "Count- down to Kickoff" section jumped o ff t h e p a g e : " N o t r e D a m e has a 14-2 record in linebacker Joe Schmidt's 16 ca- reer starts." It is the first t i m e i n m o re than three de- cades of cover- ing the football program where I could recall a player other than the quarterback positively linked o r a s s o c i a t e d with a team's win-loss ledger. O n e c o u l d make an argu- ment that as the Mike linebacker, Schmidt is the "quar- terback" of the Fighting Irish defense, the extension of coordinator Brian VanGorder on the field and whose first priority is to get everyone else in posi- tion to collectively succeed as a unit. The team won-lost stat is a subtle re- minder that the value of a player can't be defined or measured by individual statistics alone. To many, Schmidt is to Notre Dame's defense under Brian Kelly what quarterback Tommy Rees was to the offense: someone you like to have as a reserve in case of an e m e r g e n c y — but should he be a starter on a t e a m w i t h c h a m p i o n s h i p aspirations? L i k e R e e s , Schmidt is not coveted by the NFL — but both would be prime e x a m p l e s a n d h e ro i c f i g u re s in the New Tes- tament's "par- able of the tal- ents." Rees and Schmidt were/ are the ones who w e r e b l e s s e d w i t h m a y b e only one football talent, but in- creased it multi- fold to provide a huge benefit for the greater team good. The 2014 Team MVP, even though he missed the final five games with an injury, Schmidt has had to recover from a fractured ankle that might have slowed him, plus deal with a thumb injury that doesn't make tack- ling 200-pound backs with far greater speed an ideal task. In simple terms, Schmidt has physi- cally looked at times like the walk-on Winning Beyond The W-L Column To Notre Dame's coaches, Joe Schmidt's value has been more about leadership than pure talent. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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