Michigan Memories: Notre Dame LB Kerry Neal


Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

The Notre Dame-Michigan series is back, and that's bound to stir up a few memories.

Kerry Neal, a former linebacker who made 112 tackles in his Irish career from 2007 to 2010 and currently works as an athletic trainer at EFT Sports Performance outside of Chicago, reflected on the series with ND Insider last week. Here's what he had to say.

ND Insider: As a former Notre Dame player, what does the Notre Dame-Michigan series mean to you?

Kerry Neal: “It's huge. Growing up, being a Notre Dame fan since I was a young kid, that’s college football. It’s Notre Dame versus Michigan, one of the biggest rivalries – if not the biggest rivalry – in college football. For it to even leave, it was like, why? Why would you do that? That’s one of the games you mark on your calendar every year. But now it’s coming back, and it’s great. I know a couple Michigan fans and I texted them this morning. A couple years ago when Notre Dame lost to ‘em, I had to take a picture with a Michigan jersey on. A friend of mine sent it to me (laughs). I’m excited to see it. We’ve still got a couple years to wait, but hey, it’s something to look forward to in the future.”

NDI: Where did Michigan rank on your list of rivals?

KN: “It was USC and Michigan. They were like 1A and 1B. It depended on who was the hot team that year, and that was going to be the biggest rivalry. It’s a hate-hate. There’s no love. Notre Dame fans hate Michigan fans, and Michigan fans hate Notre Dame fans. It just is the way it is. It’s college football. It really makes the game better.”

NDI: When you think of your four Michigan games, what comes to mind?

KN: “In 2008 we played them at home in the rain. We really got the best of them (in a 35-17 victory), and it was a great game. I’ve got pictures at my new place now of us playing in the rain. The rain was coming down. Stuff like that, that’s what you live for as a player. Even from a fan’s perspective, you couldn’t ask for a better game or a better environment for a big rivalry game like that. My freshman year, they beat the crap out of us (in a 38-0 loss). We were a young team. The series just got bigger and bigger. They were under the lights a couple years back (in the first night game at Michigan Stadium). I was graduated but I just remember being at home watching that game. That’s an unreal environment to play in. What’s better than that?”

NDI: Did you realize the significance of the rivalry while you were a part of it?

KN: “You kind of take it for granted when you’re there. You know what’s on the line, but once you graduate and you look back on it and reflect on it, it’s like, ‘Wow, I actually played in that environment, played in that rivalry game.’ That’s college football, and that’s what you want as a player. As a competitor, you wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Kerry Neal (56) rushes Keith Nichol (7) in the second half at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, September 19, 2009. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 33-30. (SBT File Photo)