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Maurice Crum Jr. Anxious to Avenge 2006 Fiesta Bowl Loss

Maurice Crum Jr. started 42 consecutive games for the Irish, making 306 career tackles. He is now a graduate assistant for the Irish.

Dec. 29, 2015

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By Leigh Torbin

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -

Sometimes you do get a second chance.

Ten years ago today, Maurice Crum Jr. was staying in the same Scottsdale, Arizona resort hotel. He was representing the same University, Notre Dame. He was facing the same opponent, Ohio State. He was involved in the same game, the Fiesta Bowl.

Now, all Crum wants to change is the outcome. The Irish lost, 34-20, to Ohio State in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Crum, who started as a linebacker and made seven tackles, has not forgotten the burn of that contest. Currently a defensive graduate assistant for the Irish, Crum is thankful for another crack at the Buckeyes.

"I've seen some familiar things bringing back memories -- mostly bad though since we didn't win," he said Tuesday morning in the hotel's defensive meeting room. "It motivates me to push the guys and let them know the opportunity they have against a really good team in the defending champions. I've been a bit more edgy to get the guys to go, but not too much because they understand the importance of it."

While the matchup with the Buckeyes will evoke memories for Crum, right down to the Irish wearing blue jerseys across from white tops for Ohio State, he sees parallels to a more recent bowl game too -- the 2014 Music City Bowl where the Irish entered the game underrepresented.

"It's similar to the LSU deal last year," Crum said evoking a 31-28 Notre Dame victory in Nashville. "Everyone thinks that Notre Dame doesn't belong. It's that same conversation that we have a point to prove that we belong and should be at the top. We get that recognition by beating good teams like Ohio State or LSU. It will be a good game.

 

 

"It's a chance at redemption to set the road straight. This is Notre Dame football. We're in the upper echelon of football teams and this is a great opportunity to show it."

This year's Fiesta Bowl game will reconnect Crum with many of his teammates from 10 years ago. His friend Joe Brockington is coming. There will be a reunion with Victor Abiamiri, Trevor Laws, Jeff Samardzija and likely other old friends. Those alumni have been peppering Crum with questions about the current Irish and how prepared they are to finish the job from 10 years ago and beat Ohio State.

It stands as yet another example of how you may leave Notre Dame but the Notre Dame spirit never leaves you.

Crum has played professionally and embarked on a collegiate coaching career since graduating from Notre Dame in 2008. He and his wife, Crysta, have had two sons and poised to welcome another child. Lessons learned throughout his four years with the Irish, including ones gleaned exactly 10 years ago this week, have contributed to that success in life.

"I reflect on how I've grown as a man," Crum said of the time between his two Fiesta Bowls. "I've become a father. Now, I'm passing the same lessons my coaches taught me to other Notre Dame guys. It's been surreal.

"The thing Notre Dame has prepared me for the most is always being ready for the moment. There are no small moments at Notre Dame. For me, going through my life, whether it's looking for a job or having my kids, I'm always prepared and ready for the next moment and I will find a way to rise to the occasion. I take that with me."

If the current generation of Irish footballers rise to the occasion, the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State will also hold a special meaning to Irish footballers of a decade past.

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Leigh Torbin, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and serves as the football publicity team's top lieutenant while coordinating all media efforts for Irish women's lacrosse. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.

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