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    Irish at the Combine

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    The NFL Scouting Combine came to a close yesterday in Indianapolis, as the safeties and cornerbacks completed their workouts. Many fans know the combine for the 40-yard dash seen on television. While important, a player's opportunities to make an impact on NFL teams are about more than how fast he runs in a straight line.

    There are a series of on- and off-the-field evaluations, screenings and interviews that help teams get a better idea of how they will use their selections in April's NFL Draft.

    Six former Notre Dame football student-athletes participated in this year's combine - cornerback Robert Blanton, offensive lineman Taylor Dever, running back Jonas Gray, linebacker Darius Fleming, wide receiver Michael Floyd and safety Harrison Smith.

    Gray is still rehabbing the knee injury he suffered this past November against Boston College, and was only able to participate in the bench press segment of the physical tests. He hopes to be ready for Notre Dame's Pro Day in April.

    Here's a look at some notable performances from the Irish who took part in the combine:

    - Robert Blanton tied Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma) and Josh Robinson (Central Florida) for third among cornerbacks in the 20-yard shuttle. Blanton's time of 3.97 seconds also ranked third for all defensive backs in the drill.

    Blanton also fared well in the three-cone drill. His 6.71 placed fifth among cornerbacks, seventh among defensive backs and 11th among all combine participants.

    The Matthews, N.C. native tied for seventh among all defensive backs in the 60-yard shuttle, clocking a time of 11.28.

    - On Saturday, Taylor Dever ran a 7.49 in the three-cone drill, tying Nate Potter (Boise State) for fourth out of 43 offensive linemen who completed the test.

    - Darius Fleming completed the combine drills on Monday, where he ranked sixth among linebackers in the three-cone drill (7.03) and tied for seventh in the 20-yard shuttle (4.28).

    Fleming also placed sixth in the 225-lb bench press test with 27 reps. The Chicago native tied Keenan Robinson (Texas) and Luke Kuechly (Boston College), winner of the 2011 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy.

    - Michael Floyd ran a 4.47 (13th among wide receivers) in the 40-yard dash, quieting some critics who had previously questioned his speed. With the exception of Miami's Tommy Streeter and Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill none of the other wideouts who ran faster share the 6'3," 220-lb receiver's combination of size and speed.

    - Harrison Smith, the 2011 Notre Dame captain, had an impressive Tuesday, the final afternoon of the combine. Smith's best drill was the three-cone test (6.63), where he placed first among safeties, fifth for defensive backs and seventh among all combine participants.

    The safety ran a 4.57 in the 40 and completed 19 reps in the bench press test, both good for seventh at his position.

    Smith also turned in a strong showing in the 20-yard shuttle, running a 4.12 - good for second among safeties and 13th among all defensive backs. He tied LSU's Morris Claiborne, who is projected as a possible top-5 pick.

    These former Fighting Irish players aspire to play on Sundays, but no matter what happens eight weeks from now in New York, and in the free agency period thereafter, each will have a degree from the University of Notre Dame - and that will benefit them long after their playing days are complete.

    Notre Dame's NFL Combine participants, as well as other Fighting Irish professional hopefuls will be back in action just over a month from now on Pro Day, to be held on April 3 in the Loftus Sports Center.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Daily Dish - 2.29.12

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    - The names of three former Notre Dame football all-stars--Dave Casper, Raghib Ismail and Jim Seymour--appear on the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A) ballot . . . The Hall of Fame class will be announced May 15 and then inducted at the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
    Here are details on the three former Irish players on the ballot:

    * Dave Casper - Offensive Lineman/Tight End - 1973 consensus first-team All-American . . . Notre Dame co-captain and offensive MVP in 1973 on national championship team . . . 1973 Academic All-America selection . . . received post-graduate scholarships from NCAA and National Football Foundation . . . received NCAASilvery Anniversary Award and is member of Academic All-America Hall of Fame.

    * Raghib Ismail - Wide Receiver - Two-time first-team All-American earning consensus honors in 1989 and unanimous honors in 1990 . . . Walter Camp Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1990 . . . led Notre Dame to a Fiesta Bowl and two Orange Bowls . . . set NCAA record by twice returning two kickoffs for TDs in a single game (Rice 1988, Michigan 1989).

    * Jim Seymour - End - Two-time first-team All-America selection in 1967-68 . . . set Notre Dame career records for receptions (138) and receiving yards (2,113) and for pass receptions in a game (13 vs. Purdue in 1966) and still holds record for receiving yards in a game (276 in that same game).

    Notre Dame has 43 former players and six former coaches already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, providing more inductees than any other institution. The most recent addition is former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, who was inducted in 2009 and enshrined in July 2010 in South Bend.

    - Consecutive losses dropped the Notre Dame men's basketball team to a projected #7 seed in two bracketology versions, with both versions sending the Irish to Greensboro. SI.com projected the Irish against #10 Harvard; CBSSports.com projected theIrish against #10 Southern Miss. In both cases the other half of the bracket featured #2 North Carolina.

    - Notre Dame's quarterfinal game in the BIG EAST Women's Basketball Championships at 2 p.m. Sunday in Hartford will be against either #8 DePaul, #9 USF or #16 Pittsburgh.

    - For the third time this season, Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week, it was announced Tuesday by the conference office. Diggins joins Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers as the only three-time BIG EAST Player of the Week selectionsthis season, with the Fighting Irish floor general adding four other BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll citations to her current resume. In addition, this marks the 75th time a Fighting Irish women's basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (44 Players of the Week, 31 Freshmen of the Week), the second-most selections in conference history despite the fact Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96, a full 14 seasons after the league began sponsoring women's basketball (1982-83). Both fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) and senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) also have been named BIG EAST Player of the Week at some point this season (Novosel on Dec. 19, Peters on Jan. 23). What's more, rookie forward Markisha Wright (Des Moines, Iowa/Des Moines East) was chosen as the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Jan. 2. . . .

    Following Flynt - Notes From The Gug

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    Head coach Brian Kelly met briefly with some members of the media this afternoon for a story that will run later this week about his players who are moonlighting with the Notre Dame track team - George Atkinson III, Josh Atkinson and Bennett Jackson.

    Naturally, questions deviated from the topic at hand, as discussion shifted towards which Irish student-athletes will be returning for a fifth season. Rumors, tweets and blogs discussing the possibilities have persisted, but right now everything remains speculation.

    Though Notre Dame does not officially apply the redshirt title to any of its players, those who do not appear in game action during a season retain that year towards their four years of athletic eligibility.

    These athletes then have an opportunity to apply for a fifth season, but must obtain approval from the Faculty Board on Athletics before being granted permission to compete.

    I spoke briefly with football director of media relations Brian Hardin (@bhardin2), who explained that the fifth-year application process has begun and an announcement will hopefully be made before spring practice begins on March 21.

    Coach Kelly did confirm the reports that former walk-on safety Chris Salvi, who starred on special teams this past year, has been awarded a scholarship for the 2012 season.

    Salvi is also competing in the Bengal Bouts, and will fight in the 188-lb semifinals tomorrow evening. The bouts begin at 6 pm and will be held in the north dome of the Joyce Center.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Following Flynt - Great Night at Compton

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    Photo courtesy of @MGolicJR57

    In front of a sellout crowd at Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame got an important 2-0 victory over Michigan State in its second-to-last game of the regular season.

    After a scoreless first period, sophomore Jeff Costello netted his fourth goal of the season, giving the Fighting Irish a 1-0 lead, 2:31 into the second frame. Sophomore Shayne Taker and freshman Austin Wuthrich were credited with assists on the power play score.

    Just before the midpoint of the final period, freshman Peter Schneider scored his first goal of the season, on an assist from junior Kevin Nugent. The insurance goal gave Notre Dame a 2-0 advantage, and sealed the team's first win since Feb 3. (The Irish had lost five straight since defeating Bowling Green, 2-1, three weeks ago.)

    Sophomore Steven Summerhays stopped 25 shots, becoming the first Notre Dame goalie to record a shutout since Dec. 13, 2009, when Mike Johnson registered 38 saves against Michigan.

    Kickoff in Dublin is months away, but for the second time in three days, several members of the Notre Dame football team were making headlines. On Saturdays in the fall, they may reach a celebrity status, playing in front of 80,795 and millions more on national television. But this week, the Irish football players themselves were the ones in the crowd, reminding us that at the end of the day, they're students and fans, just like the rest of us.

    After being courtside at Purcell Pavilion for the men's basketball game on Wednesday, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Mike Golic Jr., Matt Mulvey and Mike Grieco were right against the glass cheering on their fellow student-athletes.

    Sporting the same floppy hat that intimidated the Mountaineers earlier in the week, Lewis-Moore may have also earned himself a spot on the Notre Dame cheerleading squad. The senior defensive end raised a big yellow "Go Irish!" sign and rallied the Notre Dame student body throughout the evening.

    Golic, Grieco and Mulvey, along with a few other football players, were into the game from the opening faceoff, even bringing along some homemade signs to show their support for the Irish icers.

    A big win for Irish hockey, a great night at Compton, and an awesome reminder of what makes Notre Dame a special university.

    The Fighting Irish will be back tomorrow night against the Spartans at 7:35 pm ET for the regular season finale. Catch the game on Comcast Channel 3, as Notre Dame looks to clinch home ice for the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Old-School Digger Phelps Has No Comment

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    What You Love About Notre Dame

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    ESPN.com - The reaction to what you love about Notre Dame has been strong, to say the least. Poems, love letters and all other sorts of crazy answers have come my way. And while there (thankfully) haven't been any feelings as strong as those of Al from Dadeville, you guys certainly embody the word "fanatic."

    Onto to the love letters ...

    John from Chicago writes: I love Notre Dame because blue and gold has been running through my ancestor's veins for more than 80 years. Being a fourth generation graduate of Notre Dame, I will do everything in my power to make sure my sons Knute and Ara have the same opportunities as were provided by my parents; to enjoy the fine education and loving family known as The University of Notre Dame. Yes Matt, you did read that correctly: I have two boys named Knute and Ara.

    Shem from Twin Cities, Minn., writes: Great Question- I love Notre Dame because I grew up 30 minutes south of the campus. Going to the games in the fall with the leaves changing and the smell of bonfires. Sitting on those hard wooden benches cheering for N.D. With night taking over and the team willing themselves to win. The crowd jublient with a great play & heart broken in defeat. My family had season tickets for 30 years

    Rich from Chicago writes: I love Notre Dame for the subway alumni, the fact that my grandmother when she was alive would try to watch the games and figure out who would hit the next home run (clueless but cute), the morals and virtue of the place, Touchdown Jesus, First Down Moses, the 100% graduation rate for athletes, the fact that people love or hate ND there is no middle ground. I love Notre Dame for the alumni network which recognizes the fact that when you graduate from ND you are part of the Notre Dame family, not a secular directional family limited to a certain geography but a family which transcends "college" and is more about "life". God, Country, Notre Dame! Go Irish!

    Patrick from Bentonville, Ark., writes: I love Notre Dame because it brings me and my father closer. I look forward to traveling to South Bend every year with him to watch the Irish play. There's not much we have in common, but we can always talk Notre Dame football.

    CO from Pa., writes: Oh Notre Dame, how I love thee so/Thy golden dome glistens like the sun on the snow/I only wish to see you win big one more time,for if you do that everything would be fine/I know that others have said we don't matter anymore,but they're just jealous of our tradition and lore/So we have faith in Brian Kelly, who's face is so red when our QB makes mistakes running the spread/Hail Notre Dame, our lady, our mother,because honestly I could love no other.Go Irish!

    Mark from Burleson, Texas, writes: Notre Dame how I love thee, let me count the ways: I love thee for the excitement you give me every Saturday during the fall/I love thee for being the standard of excellence in college football/I love thee for the greatest fight song in all the land/I love thee for all your traditions, which truly are grand/I love thee for touchdown Jesus and all you great players/I love thee for the Basilica and hearing our prayers/I love thee for all the great coaches, symbols of success/I love thee for how your athletes never cease to impress/I love thee for your Golden Dome so pristine and bright/I love thee for Rockne who said "fight, fight, fight"/I love thee for all the Heismans, lined up side by side/I love thee for 'waking the echoes' and endless pride/I love thee for the championships, while wishing for more/I love thee always, no matter the final score/I love thee for not wavering from the goal you have set/I love thee for all the great memories and vow never to forget.

    Brian from Minneapolis writes: I have been a fan through thick and thin/No one holds my heart as much as Brady Quinn/With all the championships it's hard to fight/Notre Dame is really tight/Heisman trophies line the halls/Tim Brown, Lujack I love them all/Rockne, Holtz, Parsegian, Leahy, and Devine/Coaches made this University very fine/Oh I love Notre Dame all the time/Skylar Diggins will you be my valentine??

    George from Rochester, Mich., writes: I have loved Notre Dame for the better part of my life. I am 16 years old, live in rochester, michigan. None of my family has ever gone to Notre Dame, so I'm not really sure why I like them so much. I watch every football game every sunday, and when I can basketball for both men and women. My whole room is a mancave dedicated to Notre Dame memorablia, and I always sport irish clothing at least 3 times a week to school. I may not have the skills/smarts to get into ND, but one things for sure I will always support them good through bad. I want to be part of their traditions, I want to walk on that beautiful campus of theirs, I want to be part of notre dame. I know "Rudy" probably won't happen again, but if it ever does, that person will be me. God, Country, Notre Dame.

    Phil from Beaver Falls, Pa., writes: I love Notre Dame as much as I love my girlfriend. There is no other team that love more than them. Having be from Steeler country it is hard to explain to people that I love them more than the Steelers. Don't get me wrong the Steelers are great, but college football is so much more emotional! The Steelers could lose 5 games and still make the playoffs, and possibly the Super Bowl. You can't say the same in college football. The first time I ever went to Notre Dame and I got to my seat I cried. I cried because this is a place I see every week and would imagine one day I would be in the bleachers. when that day came it was surreal. Matt, unless you're an ND fan you wouldn't understand. However I really don't expect to be on the blog, but I figured I would just express how much Notre Dame means to me.

    Jacques from Boston writes: What do I love about Notre Dame? Not everything. I don't love that some people hate it. I don't love that some people, even some who sincerely love it, don't understand it. I don't love that some people don't even know where it is. But what I know, and love, is that Notre Dame matters; it's divisive, that is, people either hate it or love it. Whether the football team is good or not isn't relevant to its relevancy. I love that it's a mystery that's hard to understand, that it challenges you to try comprehending what it's about. Truthfully, I don't worry too much about who doesn't know where it is, because those to whom it matters will always know the way back and inevitably find that road home. Simply put, it becomes a part of you, a part of your family, something for which many would take a broken nose or black eye. Its campus is poetry, its tradition is tangible. More than anything, its identity is unshakable, and that identity is the hardest of all to understand much less put into words. So, my love letter to Notre Dame is really Notre Dame as a letter to everyone else, because, you see, once you glimpse what Notre Dame is really about, you've caught a flash of a deeper love than something related to sports; once you've seen it, you've seen what love can really mean.

    Josh from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Oh, where to start.....i have not missed a game since I was 9 years old, Im now 27. I have missed numerous baseball games (both as a player and coach) because they interferred with Irish football. My wife cannot understand how i can put a sport ahead of all us, Isimply explain to her that I do not miss ND football for anything, that was proved during Sun Bowl with Miami when I chose to forgo dinner with her and the in laws because they couldnt wait until the game was over. I have taken off work or called in sick if I was scheduled to work during a game. The topper may be that during the 06 ND vs MSU game, the cops were called on my celebration of Lamberts INT. I love ND football so much, that for 13 weeks a year, my wife knows to check what time the game is before even mentioning anything to me.

    - Matt Fortuna

    McCarthy Excited for Chiefs Chance

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    Vindy.com - As a member of the Denver Broncos last season, Mooney High graduate Kyle McCarthy was inevitably asked two questions.

    How's Denver?

    What's Tim Tebow like?

    First question first.

    "It was a crazy year," said McCarthy, who spoke by phone last week after signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. "A lot of ups and downs. It was obviously nice to get into the playoffs with the Broncos and win the AFC West.

    "But my time there for now is finished and I'm just looking forward to the new opportunity in Kansas City. I learned a lot over the past two years in Denver and it's something I can take with me to another place and help me grow as a player."

    And the second question?

    "He's a great guy -- what you see on TV is what you get," McCarthy said of Tebow, whose success became arguably the NFL's biggest story last season. "It [the hype] was like something I never experienced.

    "It was media attention on a whole new scale. Anything and everything that happened would be on TV within hours and it was pretty cool to see."

    McCarthy, 25, signed with Denver as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2010. He appeared in 12 games over the past two seasons, splitting time between the active roster and the practice squad.

    A safety, he played in four of Denver's final five games last fall but was released just before the wild-card round. He had three tackles last season and four as a rookie.

    A handful of teams showed interest in McCarthy after the season. He chose Kansas City because he liked head coach Romeo Crennel and his defensive system.

    Crennel, the former Browns head coach, served as K.C.'s interim head coach for the final three games after Todd Haley was fired. Crennel was promoted to permanent head coach after the season.

    "His track record speaks for itself; he's been one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL for a long time," McCarthy said of Crennel. "I've only met him one time but he made a good impression on me. He told me the best guys are going to play, the ones who can contribute to the success of the team."

    McCarthy has no ties to Kansas City or its coaches, which he calls "exciting."

    "I look at it as a new opportunity, a chance to make a new impression on the coaches," he said.

    He hopes to spend a full season on the team's active roster and break into the starting lineup.

    "That's everyone's goal in this league," he said. "It's something I believe will happen. If I didn't believe it would happen, I wouldn't waste my time or anyone else's time."

    McCarthy spent last week in Youngstown before heading out to Los Angeles to train for the 2012 season.

    When asked to compare the two cities, he chuckled and said. "It's completely 180 degrees different. I could never see myself living in L.A. and I could definitely see myself living in Youngstown, if that says anything."

    - Joe Scalzo

    Domer Dens

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    We've all heard the stories or seen the photos - ultimate Notre Dame fans who have collected dozens, if not hundreds of hats, shirts, helmets, jerseys, footballs, posters, pennants and other memorabilia - entire rooms dedicated to a passion for the Fighting Irish.

    Today, UND.com and Fighting Irish Digital Media bring one of those rooms to life, launching the first episode in a new series - "Domer Dens." This pilot feature takes you inside the home of Dick Wilson, a South Bend resident, and a lifelong fan whose basement holds a collection of incredibly interesting Notre Dame artifacts.

    With a pair of original wall lockers, shoes signed by Gerry Faust, a blackboard from the locker room, bricks from the old stadium and a jacket worn by Ara Parseghian, among many other items, Wilson's basement might seem more like a Notre Dame museum than a fan's home.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Justin Tuck, Brick Strong

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    Not that you needed another reason to like the former Irish DE #44, but check out this recent ESPN feature as Rachel Nichols examines the friendship between the Giants defensive end (Notre Dame '05) and a young fan who died following a battle with leukemia.

    Following Flynt - McCarthy to Sign With Chiefs

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    Former Irish safety Kyle McCarthy ('09) announced this morning via Twitter than he will be signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Youngstown, Ohio native has spent the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos, along with fellow Notre Dame graduates David Bruton ('09) and Brady Quinn ('07).

    While at Notre Dame, McCarthy started all 25 games during his senior and fifth-year seasons. During his final season with the Irish, he led the team in tackles (101) and interceptions (five).

    Screen shot 2012-02-10 at 1.47.50 PM.png

    Judging by McCarthy's Twitter background and profile picture, the future Kansas City Chief's heart, like that of so many other alums, will always be with Notre Dame.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

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