Props to former Irish tight end Kyle Rudolph on being named to the 2011 NFP All-Rookie offensive team. Here's an excerpt from NFP's site on Rudolph, who scored his third professional touchdown on - appropriately - Christmas Eve while guiding Minnesota to a 33-26 win over Washington. NationalFootballPost.com - 2010 had one of the best tight end classes ever. This year wasn't quite as good. Two stood out from an average class and they were Rudolph and Lance Kendricks with St. Louis. Kendricks is more of a move tight end while Rudolph has the bulk, size and power to play as an inline tight end and the speed and finesse to be a move type. He put up good numbers with 39 catches and 3 touchdowns.
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It's time. Time for the Champs Sports Bowl. Time for a win. Time for Notre Dame football. Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
With kickoff just over 48 hours away, today was the equivalent of a Thursday if this were a normal game week. Some rain passed through OrlaNDo this afternoon, as the Irish hit the practice field for the final time this season. They will hold one final walkthrough tomorrow, before battling Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29. But before focusing on football after an early lunch at the hotel, the Irish joined the Seminoles for a great morning at the Give Kids The World Village in nearby Kissimmee. Give Kids The World is a "70-acre, nonprofit 'storybook' resort, located near Central Florida's most beloved attractions, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations." As Louise, one of the volunteers at GKTW said to the players as they arrived, "You want it to be the best Tuesday of their lives, and you're going to make that happen for them today." Taking some time away from football, the Irish and the Seminoles brightened up the lives of many children, and spread joy to their families, simply by spending quality time with them. For fans, sometimes the emotional interest invested in the outcomes of games causes us to overlook the fact that teams are more than collections of athletes. People always see the hard-hitting, physical and aggressive side of college football players. But sports and life, are about much more than that. They are about the children's laughter and the smiles on the faces of their parents as they get ice cream from Darius Fleming and autographs from Michael Floyd and Harrison Smith, take pictures with Manti Te'o, dance with Mike Golic Jr. and Andrew Hendrix and play catch with Carlo Calabrese and Jamoris Slaughter. (These, just a few of the special moments I saw this morning.) The children and their families enjoyed their day, not because they got to spend it with athletes who've scored big touchdowns or made important tackles, but because they were struck by the kindness of complete strangers. They were surrounded by a team of young men, a group of student-athletes whose lives, at the end of the day, will be measured in the positive impact they had on the world and those around them, not in the accolades they achieve on the football field. - Josh Flynt ('11)
When Notre Dame and Florida State meet on Thursday in the 22nd Champs Sports Bowl, the game will not have the BCS implications that many may have suspected at the start of the 2011 season. Ranked No. 16 and No. 6 respectively in the preseason Associated Press polls, both the Fighting Irish and the Seminoles fell short of expectations. Still, this week's game at the Florida Citrus Bowl has particular intrigue because the winning program will have momentum and a leg up on preparation for the 2012 season. But the future is not the only reason this matchup is being discussed as one of the more interesting non-BCS bowl games of 2011. It is also about the past. Over the long history of college football, Florida State may only be a blip on the radar. They started playing football in 1947 and have won two national championships, compared with Notre Dame's eleven titles. However, the Seminoles are one of the most accomplished teams of the last quarter-century. They won ten or more games in 14 consecutive seasons from 1987-2000, and this season marks their 30th straight year playing in a postseason bowl. Florida State and Notre Dame have played six times, with the Seminoles holding a 4-2 advantage. The teams met most recently in 2003 (a 37-0 FSU victory), and most notably, a decade earlier, in 1993. ESPN's College GameDay took its show on the road for the first time, visiting South Bend for the "Game of the Century" between the top-ranked Seminoles and No. 2 Fighting Irish. NBC began the broadcast with nearly a three-minute segment narrated by Bob Costas, considered by many one of the greatest pregame introductions ever. (Speaking of which, I would love for NBC to bring back this music from that game for its current Notre Dame broadcasts. So 90's.) And somehow, with all the hype, the game itself did not disappoint. The Irish jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead and led by two scores late in the fourth quarter. However, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward would not back down. The Florida State quarterback hit Kez McCorvey for a touchdown to make it 31-24 and the Seminole defense forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame's next possession. Ward drove the Seminoles deep into Irish territory, but on the game's final play, Notre Dame defensive back Shawn Wooden batted down his pass near the end zone to preserve the victory. Notre Dame seemed to be in the driver's seat for the national championship, but the Irish lost to Boston College the following week, and it was Florida State who had the last laugh, going on to defeat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and claim its first title. In the 1996 Orange Bowl, Bobby Bowden and Lou Holtz's squads met again. Notre Dame built a 26-14 lead, but Florida State scored the game's final 17 points to win 31-26. It was the Seminoles tenth-straight bowl victory and the second of nine consecutive bowl losses for the Irish. In 2002, No. 6 Notre Dame visited Tallahassee, Fla. as a double-digit underdog. On the first Irish play from scrimmage, Carlyle Holiday hit Arnaz Battle for a 65-yard touchdown pass. In the third quarter, Notre Dame forced three turnovers over a four-minute span and opened up a 27-10 lead and went on to defeat the No. 11 Seminoles, 34-24. In recent years, neither team has achieved the level of success it aspires to reach, but Thursday marks the beginning of a new chapter in this young series. Both Florida State and Notre Dame are on the rise, so do not be surprised if we see the Seminoles and Fighting Irish battling for postseason supremacy again sometime in the near future. The winner of the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando moves one step closer to being back among college football's elite. - Josh Flynt ('11)
It didn't quite look or feel like the Christmas I'm used to, but the Notre Dame football family celebrated the holidays here in OrlaNDo. Team chaplain and Dillon Hall rector Father Paul Doyle presided at Christmas Mass, which was followed by a brunch for the team, coaches, staff and the rest of the ND travel party. The players ate first and headed out to team meetings, before hitting the field for their second bowl practice of the trip. Afterwards, many of the players headed to Disney World for a few hours of fun. (See Gary Gray's Twitter photo for one of the funniest moments of the week thus far.) It remains to be seen if Disney topped last night's visit to SeaWorld, where Shamu was clearly a team favorite. The Irish move one step closer to gameday tomorrow, with practice in the afternoon and a trip to Universal Studios. We'll have more updates coming soon, so keep an eye on Irish UNDerground and Facebook.com/NDFootball. And on this Christmas night, I'll leave you with this all-time classic from Mr. Sinatra. - Josh Flynt ('11)
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