Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey set to study abroad: 'Oh, Milan is pretty cool'

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND —The Foskey Factor is headed to the fashion capital of the world. 

Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame’s star pass rusher, headlines a contingent of Irish football players who will study in Milan, Italy from May 16-27. According to the course description on the university’s web site, the Design Thinking International Immersion course is ideal for students “interested in further honing their human-centered design skills and applying these skills to generate business value.” 

Among those joining Foskey on the trip are quarterback Drew Pyne, linebacker JD Bertrand, defensive end Rylie Mills, safeties Xavier Watts and Ramon Henderson; tight end Kevin Bauman and wide receiver Griffin Eifert. Other parts of the roster are headed to Brazil and South Africa, Foskey said.

Notre Dame defensive end Isaiah Foskey may have summed it best as to what happens when the Irish lose a game, as they did last week to Cincinnati.

“I never really thought about going to study abroad,” Foskey said Tuesday after spring practice No. 9. “But then I saw Milan. I was like, ‘Oh, Milan is pretty cool. I’ve never been to Italy.’ I’d never been abroad until Costa Rica.”

While the Brazil and South Africa courses run for three weeks (May 11-June 1), Foskey liked the idea of a more condensed experience. 

“I just saw it, saw an opportunity, saw it was only 10 days, so I was like, ‘All right. Might as well do it,' " he said. "And I still get to go home, train and do all that stuff. So I’ll get a little break in the summer, then come back. That’s how it came about.”

Foskey selected the Milan trip in January, shortly after announcing his decision to return for another season rather than enter the NFL Draft. Admittedly, he speaks no Italian, but Bertrand, his housemate, has a working knowledge of the language.

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“JD took classes,” Foskey said. “He said he knows how to write it but he doesn’t know how to speak it.”

Foskey said he is looking forward to sampling authentic Italian pasta dishes – “I feel like they’re known for pasta, right?” he said – but is also considering Watts’ suggestion that the group dine on some international fast food. 

“X told me to look at McDonald’s out there,” Foskey said of Watts, who is from Omaha, Neb. “I don’t know. I might try it.” 

Lessons of the Tim Duncan-era Spurs  

New defensive coordinator Al Golden recently played a San Antonio Spurs highlight video for his Notre Dame players in order to illustrate the importance of sound fundamentals. 

Under Greg Popovich, who recently became the all-time wins leader among NBA coaches, the glitz-free Spurs won five NBA championships from 1999-2014. 

“Really, it wasn’t about the flash, it was about the fundamentals,” new defensive line coach Al Washington said. “They were a great team. The Spurs had a dynasty because of the basics.”

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Washington cited Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as examples of detail-oriented pros who won over the long haul by making the right play over and over. 

“All those guys were just really solid fundamentalists,” Washington said. “They were good players, naturally, hall of famers. But there’s something to praise about the fundamentals. That’s been our focus.”

Following 12-year Notre Dame assistant Mike Elston after he returned to work at Michigan, his alma mater, Washington is trying to build on the group skills he inherited while pushing even experienced players like Foskey and the Ademilola Twins to hone their craft. 

“We’re trying to go from good to great,” Washington said. “They’re a really talented group and everybody praises them and they should, but there’s another level. How do we get there? It’s in the details. If we could just be better at those little things, (such as) getting off blocks, there’s a whole other level.”

Paul Moala lands at Idaho

Paul Moala, the former Penn High School star and oft-injured Notre Dame rover, has made it official: He will transfer to Idaho, an FCS school that plays in the Big Sky Conference and went 4-7 last season. 

“These past few months have been crazy to say the least,” Moala posted on his Twitter account. “I’ve been through so much and have been waiting on a blessing. That blessing came quick through the University of Idaho.”

11/17/2019: Tribune Photo/CHAD WEAVER
Notre Dame’s Paul Moala (13), a Penn grad, returns a fumble for a touchdown against Navy Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame’s Paul Moala (13) returns a fumble during the Notre Dame-Navy NCAA Football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Moala was a key contributor on special teams from 2018-20 before suffering a torn Achilles in Game 3 of 2020. He rehabbed to get back on the field for the 2021 opener at Florida State, but then suffered another season-ending Achilles injury. 

As a sophomore in November 2019, Moala intercepted a Navy pitch and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown in a 52-20 win at Notre Dame Stadium.   

At Penn, Moala led the Kingsmen to a 13-2 record and a state runner-up finish in 2017. 

Jordan Botelho's crossover skills

Junior linebacker Jordan Botelho is among those benefiting from some merging of the duties for the rover and Vyper positions. 

“Botelho’s a guy who can generate a pass rush and he’s powerful enough at the line that he can hold point (of attack),” Washington said. “You can do whatever you want with those positions to fit (assignments) to the player, whatever they have a knack for.” 

Botelho, at 6-foot-2 1/2  and 245 pounds, can back up Foskey on the edge and incumbent Jack Kiser at rover, which typically requires more skill at pass coverage. Washington said both roles now require players with pass-rush and block-destruction capabilities. 

“You have to be able to use your hands and play with some contact balance,” Washington said. “Those are things that stand out in terms of those two positions being alike.”

Last season Botelho had two sacks and 18 tackles in eight games. 

Staff writer Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. Email him at mberardino@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.