Over a decade ago I set out on the dubious course of putting down on paper my feelings towards the University of Southern California. That journey sent me down a bitter road as I reflected on my interactions with the Trojans. I will be the first to admit that my bitterness stems from the fact that USC owned the Irish during my time at Notre Dame. If your memory is a “day late and a dollar short,” let me refresh you! To be clear from the start, I have an intense dislike for the University of Southern California Trojans. It is not the university itself, rather, the Trojan football team and their sense of entitlement, cockiness, and blatant disrespect. It also is Tommy Trojan, the cheerleaders, the rocking of the bus before they enter the stadium, the "V for Victory" sign, and the incessant and never ending "Fight On" from the band. To say that the Notre Dame versus USC game is a rivalry would be incorrect. More specifically, for Notre Dame, it is THE rivalry game. My point is not to offend USC fans, players, or coaches, only stir the pot slightly. This rivalry is fueled by trash-talking and hard-nosed football games.
I look forward to the annual matchup between the Fighting Irish and the Trojans because I love intense rivalries. Both fan-bases are extremely intense and bleed their respective school colors. For both schools, this matchup comes at a great time. Throw records out when Notre Dame and USC meet because both teams will be amped up. The atmosphere never disappoints whether in South Bend at Notre Dame Stadium or in La La Land at the Coliseum. As an Irish football player, there is a huge amount of pressure to live up to and maintain the legacy that has been created over the past 125 years. It is also a large reason why each athlete chooses to attend the University of Notre Dame for the opportunity to bring ND back to prominence. Each team wants to be remembered for doing so and that thought weighs heavily on the mind of every Irish player. We know who we represent and the legacy created before us. That legacy continues this weekend. And, as Coach Holtz says, “It doesn’t have to be close!
In my home growing up, we had a Thanksgiving tradition, as most families do, of going around the table and saying something we were thankful for. Being as it may, this is the season for giving thanks. In that light, I want to take a few moments to tell you what I am thankful for. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to play football at the University of Notre Dame and for a rich history of great men that paved the path before. I am thankful that I graduated with a degree that set me up for success in life for years and years to come. I am thankful for the relationships I built with teammates and friends while at Notre Dame and those connections I have made since I left the university. I am thankful that the administration and coaching staff continues to treat the current players like family by providing them with a Thanksgiving meal and instill in them the values and character that define Notre Dame men. I am thankful for Irish football games on Saturdays and the mixture of emotions that accompany each contest. But most of all, I am thankful that I did not go to USC! Playing for the Jeweled Shillelagh is by far the most hate fueled rivalry on Notre Dame's schedule. Go Irish!