Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fathers Source of Inspiration Notre Dame Players Look to Dads Who Also Donned Uniforms for Irish

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fathers Source of Inspiration Notre Dame Players Look to Dads Who Also Donned Uniforms for Irish

Article excerpt

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame wide receiver T.J. Jones has plenty on his mind as he prepares for the talented Alabama secondary he'll face in the BCS championship game Jan. 7 in Miami.

Still, he can't help thinking about his late father, Andre, who died in June 2011 at age 42 after suffering a brain aneurysm. The elder Jones played on Notre Dame's 1988 national championship team, and T.J. grew up hearing stories about his dad's coach, Lou Holtz. His godfather is Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, the team's star receiver and kick returner, and he stays in touch with many of his father's Fighting Irish teammates.

T.J. keeps his dad's championship ring at home because his mother is afraid he would lose it at school. He hopes to place his own right next to it.

"Before I came here, we used to always talk about how cool it would be if we both won the national championship, especially if we won it at Notre Dame, once I committed here in high school," Jones said after practice Thursday. "So I definitely have a more personal tie-in with what it means than somebody else might."

Jones isn't the only Irish player following in his father's footsteps. He's also one of several members of the nation's top- ranked team who have overcome obstacles and setbacks to make it to college football's biggest stage.

Last year, Mike Golic Jr., whose father was a star defensive tackle for the Irish in the early 1980s and currently co-hosts a morning talk show on ESPN, had been unable to win a starting job on the offensive line. As a graduate student this season, his hard work and determination changed that.

Golic said there were times when he struggled to go on, but his dad was always there with encouragement and advice.

"You have to stay sharp," he said his father told him. "You have to stay ready. If I wasn't ready when my number was called, then I'm letting everyone else down as well as myself. …

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