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Irish Welcome Big Brothers Big Sisters

Feb 25, 2013, 9:36 PM EST

Champions are made in the offseason… as it is often said.

The offseason, however, is about so much more than improving on the practice field and in the weight room. It’s a time for programs to instill values (such as last year’s “A-Team” philosophy) and perhaps more importantly, for student-athletes to grow in the classroom and away from their sport.

Among the five cornerstones that head coach Brian Kelly‘s program is built upon are the ideas of social and spiritual development, both of which are closely connected to community service.

This past summer, for example, members of the Irish football team spent time in a class through the Center for Social Concerns.

On Saturday, Notre Dame and the Student Welfare & Development office invited Big Brothers Big Sisters to campus for a morning at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.

The event kicked off with Duke Preston, program director for Student Welfare & Development, and Ernest Jones, the football team’s Director of Player Development and Engagement welcoming visitors in the Gug’s Isban Auditorium.

Senior Linebacker Danny Spond, the youngest in his family, and freshman quarterback Malik Zaire, an only child, said a few words, talking about the impact that coaches, mentors and teammates have had on their lives and athletic careers.

Both student-athletes spoke about wanting to be role models to their visitors, reflecting the team’s goal of being “other-centered,” a principle value of Irish Around The Bend, the team’s community service arm.

Following the introductions, the “bigs” (mentors) and “littles” (mentees) watched a Here Come The Irish video and 2012 highlight reel, before Preston and Jones led them around the building, giving everyone a special inside look at the meeting rooms, locker room and team lounge used by the Notre Dame football team on a daily basis.

The tour culminated with a trip to the Haggar Fitness Center, where of course, it was time to get to work.

After the rest of the student-athletes introduced themselves, they led participants through a series of offensive and defensive drills on the indoor turf field – an opportunity to not only share the sport they love with children, but also a chance to develop friendships with some of the young fans that support them on Saturdays in the fall.

Among the participants was sophomore linebacker and Student-Athlete Advisory Council representative Jarrett Grace, who was eager to build relationships with the children who came to visit.

“I think we have a big impact…[The children] can see these are normal guys. They worked hard. They did these same things. [We] were once in their shoes, how they were here this morning,” Grace said.

Likewise, cornerback Bennett Jackson enjoyed the opportunity to play a positive role in the lives of the youth who look up to him.

“You give them something to set a goal to work towards,” the cornerback said. “I’m sure a lot of kids around here grow up loving Notre Dame football. Building a relationship with them takes them that much closer to reaching their goal, if they want to come to this university. I think we can have a huge impact on them, just serving as a role model and a friend, showing them support.”

With less than two months until the spring game, and about six until the season opener, it was an excellent opportunity for the Irish to give back to those who cheer them on week in and week out at Notre Dame Stadium.

“The community around here is the biggest support to us, and we want them to feel that we support them as much as they support us,” Jackson said.

Check out Fighting Irish Digital Media’s recap of the event, as well as several photos from the fun morning at the Gug.

  1. michaelhettel - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    The Fighting Irish had an absolutely wonderful recruiting season this year and Coach Kelly is the most wonderful Coaches in College Football. The 2013 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Schedule looks like it leads to the national championship game once again.

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