Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2017 Issue

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

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Page 60 of 63 MAY 2017 61 WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? had grabbed 61 passes for 1,046 and seven touchdowns — numbers he was projected to produce in one sea- son alone, like other elite receiver recruits. When Willingham was fired and New England Patriots offensive coor- dinator Charlie Weis arrived with his pro-style passing scheme, it was the ideal union for Stovall, who exploded with 69 catches for 1,149 yards (16.7 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns, highlighted by single-game school records of 14 catches and four touch- downs against a Brigham Young team that had defeated the Irish the previous season. All of his numbers surpassed the previous three years combined en route to becoming a third-round pick in the NFL Draft. "It was me reaching my maturity as a collegiate player combined with a pro-style offense that was suited to my style and caliber of play — be- ing a downfield receiver, going up and catching," reflected Stovall of his stellar season. "Coach Weis did a great job of using my talent. My senior season it just seemed like ev- erything came together, just having everything in the right place. Plus, I was playing with more passion." He remembered how the disap- pointing seasons his sophomore and junior years hurt the morale on cam- pus, and he admitted he didn't push himself the way he needed. "I kept thinking I don't want to go out like that, I want to change," said Stovall, who fulfilled Weis' order to shed at least 15 pounds. "I spent time in the weight room after practice, worked harder, catching balls even after every practice. "When I graduate, I want to at least say I gave it everything I had. I didn't want to leave anything on the field, and it paid off." Stovall still recalls with a chuckle Weis' initial meeting with the team that lasted "about three minutes." "He said, 'I'm not here to be your friend. I'm going to treat you like men until you show me you need to be treated like children,'" Stovall relayed. "'I'm here to win and I don't care if you like me or not.'" With a plethora of veterans return- ing in Weis' first season, that ap- proach worked as Notre Dame fin- ished in the Associated Press top 10 (No. 9) for the first time in 12 years, and only the second time during the past 23. "Our team was a product of his personality and his approach to the game," Stovall said of the 2005 cam- paign. Shortly after his senior season when so many of his dreams were coming to fruition, Stovall learned in February 2006 that his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which would take her life that May 24, three days after his graduation. "It was a highly emotional time," Stovall said. "I didn't go to my grad- uation because she couldn't make it, and my father was taking care of her as well. It just didn't feel right her not being there." His solace was her knowing that his multiple degrees in sociology and computer applications had been achieved, and that she realized her son was fulfilling his own potential as a man. BEYOND NOTRE DAME Stovall played seven years in the NFL, his first five at Tampa Bay, then Detroit and Jacksonville before rec- ognizing that his playing days were finished. He developed interest in the financial industry and joined the financial firm Primerica. However, what he especially enjoyed in his spare time was working with other players either in the NFL or trying to make it there as free agents. "I put them through every drill I used to better myself as a player, and they would tell me how much they improved and how they learned things they didn't even know about at wide receiver," Stovall said. "It seems that all players say to them- selves, 'Man, I'm not coaching when I get done,' because they see the amount of time they put in and the stress that comes with the job. "But when I get done playing, my wife [Laura] said, 'Hey, Maurice, you should coach!'" In 2016, Stovall interviewed for and accepted a job as the wide re- ceivers coach at superpower IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., not far from Tampa Bay, and where Stovall himself used to train. IMG already has sent sophomore running back Tony Jones Jr. and freshman offensive tackle Robert Hainsey to Notre Dame the past two years, plus associate strength and conditioning coach Dave Ballou. "Coach [Brian] Kelly's been here and I had a nice conversation with him," said the 32-year-old Stovall, who has a 4-year-old daughter (Ta- maro) and 3-year-old son (Maurice). "I'd love to coach there one day if I ever have the opportunity." Someday, Stovall might be re-re- cruited by the Fighting Irish again. ✦ Stovall, who played seven seasons in the NFL and caught 52 passes for 668 yards and three touch- downs, interviewed for and accepted a job as the wide receivers coach at IMG Academy in 2016. PHOTO BY CASEY BROOK-LAWSON/COURTESY IMG ACADEMY Air Raid At Notre Dame Until 2005, there were only two times a Notre Dame player caught 60 passes in a season: 60 by Jack Snow in 1964, and 79 (including the Cotton Bowl) by Thom Gatewood in 1970. Seldom was 50 reached. That all changed in 2005 when Maurice Stovall snared 69 for 1,149 yards and 11 touchdowns — yet was second on the team to Jeff Samardzija's 77 for 1,249 yards and 12 scores. Here are the four seasons in which two Fighting Irish receivers each caught at least 60 passes: 1. 163 in 2011 — Michael Floyd (100) and Tyler Eifert (63) 2. 146 in 2005 — Jeff Samardzija (77) and Maurice Stovall (69) 3. 145 in 2006 — Samardzija (78) and Rhema McKnight (67) Note: The 2,398 yards Stovall and Samardzija amassed in 2005 easily are the most, eclipsing the 1,950 total by Floyd-Eifert in 2011 (14 touchdowns) and the 2006 sum of 1,924 by Samardzija-McKnight (27 scores).

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