Nov 18, 2011, 1:18 PM EDT
On Saturday, 39 football players will suit up for what could be their last game at Notre Dame Stadium. While there is little doubt that some of these players will be back for a fifth year, there are no guarantees.
For the current fifth-year players, the Notre Dame journey began in one of the most discouraging seasons in program history, a year in which the Irish did not win a home contest until Senior Day against Duke.
This senior class came to South Bend on the heels of that 3-9 season. It would seem to be a telling testament that the university is about much more than football, that highly-touted prospects such as Michael Floyd, Dayne Crist, and many others, signed their letters of intent following such a trying year.
From a coaching change to the tragic accident involving student videographer Declan Sullivan and the loss of intern and former student manager Xavier Murphy in his battle with cancer, this group has had endured several hardships.
While they have not won BCS titles or Heisman trophies, there is no doubt that this team has also had its share of moments that they will always remember. Wins in Hawai’i, San Antonio, New York, and Washington, as well as the memorable four-game stretch that all started with Blanton’s blocked punt against Utah, to close out the 2010 campaign.
When these seniors leave Notre Dame, they will not be among the most decorated in the university’s accomplished football history. But perhaps they will be remembered for turning the tide of Notre Dame football, for building a new football culture in South Bend and for setting the stage for the next truly great Irish team.
With two games left to play, and a bowl game matchup to be determined, let’s hope they can muster up some more of that late-season magic to close out their careers in style and send the Fighting Irish into 2012, destined for a great year.
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