Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

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

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4 OCT. 30, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED B rian Kelly has coached a lot of courageous and inspirational young men during his 30-plus seasons of working college football sidelines, includ- ing his last eight here as the head coach of Notre Dame. But there is one particular story that brings pride and even amazement when the head coach is asked about the trials and triumphs that one of his current players has handled, and that's se- nior captain Drue Tranquill. Rehabbing from one ACL injury is difficult enough for an athlete, yet Tranquill has come back from two — and he's emerged as a bet- ter player and a better man through it all. "Here is a guy that has just taken what could have b e e n c a t a s t ro p h i c a n d turned it into positives, and that's just his mind- set and spirit," Kelly said when asked about his devoted rover. "That's the kind of kid he is, and that's why he's a captain." Tranquill talks freely about the physical and mental struggles he faced while trying to return from his two season-ending knee injuries and subse- quent surgeries in consecutive seasons. The first one, which came against Louisville in November 2014, trun- cated Tranquill's freshman season by two games when he damaged his left knee in the first half but remarkably played the entire second half with the injury. In less than 10 months, Tranquill was sidelined again just three games into the 2015 campaign, this time af- ter an unfortunate and infamous in- jury to his right knee that he suffered while celebrating with linebacker Joe Schmidt after breaking up a pass against Georgia Tech in the corner of the Notre Dame end zone. Rehab is rigorous and takes at least five months. "It was difficult and frustrating to go through all of that and have it happen again," Tranquill recalled. "It takes a toll mentally." And that's where Drue's younger brother Justin comes in. If you think injury fate has been cruel to Drue, Justin's story is even harder to grasp. Justin Tranquill began this season as a junior starting safety for reigning Mid-American Conference champion Western Michigan until he tore his ACL, his MCL and his PCL Sept. 9 when a Michigan State player was blocked into his legs. It was Justin's third devastating and season-ending knee injury in the last four years. He suffered a tear during his senior season in 2014 playing at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., and he was lost for most of his freshman season at Western Michi- gan in 2015. "Once is hard enough as it is," Jus- tin explained, "but tearing it a second time and now a third time puts a new level on the frustration aspect of it, because you know what is ahead as far as the rehab goes." And that's where Justin's older brother Drue comes in. Through cruel irony, the Tranquill brothers both suffered their second knee injuries only about two weeks apart back in 2015, so their rehabs ran nearly con- currently. If one of the broth- ers was having a bad day dur- ing recovery, the other was there to pick him up, and vice versa. "Having someone like Drue there to walk through all that with was comforting to say the least," Justin said. "His work ethic, his attitude, the way he carries himself, it made the entire recovery process more tolerable." And according to Justin, re- hab even created some bond and competition between the guys. In a true case of anything you can do I can do better, the two brothers added some one- upmanship to the recovery process. If one found his way to 50 reps in an exercise, so would the other. If one reached a higher weight threshold, the other wasn't far behind. "We were able to go through it all on a similar timetable," said Justin, who admitted that because Drue's recovery was running about two weeks ahead of his, sometimes little brother exaggerated his progress re- port a bit. "We were able to kind of do the same things. We could do similar workouts." Drue is back again for a third time with Justin, exactly where he was during his brother's first two recov- eries — just a phone call, or a text message, or an hour drive to Western Michigan or a two-hour drive back home for a family visit. "Drue's not only my brother, but he's my best friend, my role model, my spiritual mentor all in one pack- age," Justin said of the engineering major. "There's nothing like that." Two brothers, four knees, five sur- geries, dozens of months of rehab and one common bond. ✦ A Brothers' Bond UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Irish senior rover Drue Tranquill and his brother Justin, a junior safety at Western Michigan, have helped each other bounce back from multiple knee injuries over the past four years. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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