More Story: Irish alum Darius Fleming overcomes obstacles


Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Today, we published a story about former Notre Dame linebacker Darius Fleming's winding road from South Bend to the Super Bowl. But part of ND Insider's interview with Fleming didn't make the final cut.

Here are some interesting nuggets from the 26-year-old linebacker that didn't appear in the original story.

Darius Fleming

On why he committed to Notre Dame despite its overwhelming 3-9 season in 2007:

"They were struggling a lot before I committed there. I knew the type of program they had. I knew what they were capable of doing. I wanted to be a part of changing the culture and getting Notre Dame football back to where it should be.”

On how he got involved in the sport of rodeo:

“Growing up, my aunt Valerie (Peeples), she always had horses. Me growing up on the south side of Chicago, she knows about the area that I was in. When I started at 6, 7 years old, it was more like a chore. It wasn’t a pleasure for me. She would pick me up every weekend and I would go through basic chores, like cleaning the stalls of the horses, grooming the horses. I would condition them and things of that nature, and at first it wasn’t as fun.

"Then as I got older I started to do rodeos and compete. I give a lot of credit to my aunt, because it was tough growing up around there. If you don’t have some type of outlet, then that makes it really difficult to get away from the things that are there distracting you. She was there to help me and put me in a position where I wasn’t always around the distractions. That helped me out a lot.”

On being signed by the New England Patriots after tearing his left ACL in consecutive years:

"I give the Patriots a lot of credit for allowing me to pursue my dream after coming off two ACLs with San Francisco. I thought my career might have been over. 'Why give him a shot when you have all these healthy rookies coming in that can easily contribute to a team?' Mr. (Robert) Kraft and coach (Bill) Belichick gave me a great opportunity there, and I was able to run with it. I appreciate everything they did for me."

On his four-year NFL career to this point:

"As a kid, you think that everybody gets an opportunity to win a Super Bowl. If you get to the NFL, you’re going to get that shot one day. But you learn that a lot of guys — Hall of Famers — don’t ever get that opportunity. Some guys never even make it to the playoffs. I’ve been fortunate to be on teams where I’ve been to four conference championship games, I’ve been to two Super Bowls. That’s a very crazy four years. I look back and I’m very thankful for the situations that I’ve been in.”

On watching teammate Malcolm Butler's interception to clinch Super Bowl 49:

"That was one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, in football history. That play will always be remembered. To make a play like that, it just shows you that it was our time and it was meant to be.”

On the false speculation that he made up the story of helping a woman after a car accident near the Patriots practice facility:

“It was eye-opening. It was very eye-opening to see that no good deed goes un-punished. At first I was frustrated that people were questioning my character and questioning the person that I am. I can’t really fault the media. They did their due diligence and they came up with no explanation (for TMZ's false report). But it’s upsetting as a society to see that people do make up false stories of that nature. That’s the sad part.”

On the time his truck unexpectedly ran out of gas during a drive to Indianapolis with his girlfriend in the middle of the night, which partially explained why he helped the aforementioned woman in the car accident:

“I could have had a baby in the car. No one’s stopping for me. So ever since then, I keep extra gas in my car. I keep jumper cables. You never know. I don’t want a lady to be sitting in her car with a baby in the same situation I was in. That’s why I’m always willing to help somebody.”

On the difference between playing at Notre Dame and in the NFL:

“There’s nothing like playing in college. The thing about playing in college is that it’s less stressful. I’m not going to work every day like, ‘Hmm, I wonder if I’m going to be here.’ I know I’m going to be here for four years. I know I’m going to have an opportunity to be with some of my best friends. In the NFL, it’s a little different. You build a brotherhood, and the next week you could be gone.”

On Jim Harbaugh, who he played against at Notre Dame and for in San Francisco:

“He’s a great coach. The thing that I like about him is that he loves the game. He’s one of the coaches that have been in our shoes, that have played this game. You see that every day in his demeanor and how he approaches his day. If he could, he would suit up and play. That’s the kind of energy he brings every day. When he went to Michigan, I knew he was going to do great things, just because of the type of coach he was. The things he did this year at Michigan weren’t a shock to me at all.”

On the state of Notre Dame's program under Brian Kelly:

“I’m very confident. He’s another great coach, and he knows how to build a team with the players that he has. He understands the things that are necessary to have a winning program, and I think he has shown that in the last six years. He’s done a great job of developing his team.”

Notre Dame's Brian Kelly greets senior Darius Fleming before the game against Boston College Saturday, November 19, 2011 (SBT File photo).