Notre Dame football freshman OL Joey Tanona on the mend after 'terrible accident'

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — More details emerged Thursday from freshman offensive lineman Joey Tanona’s recent concussion. 

According to offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, the injury stemmed from a serious auto accident as one of Tanona’s two sisters drove him to the football complex for an early-morning workout.

Kelly Tanona, mother of the former Zionsville High School lineman, had taken a place in South Bend, according to Hiestand. 

“Really freak thing — scary,” Hiestand said. “It’s a blessing that he’s just dealing with what he’s dealing with and it wasn’t worse. It was a terrible accident. I saw a picture of the car. It was terrible.”

Joey Tanona

According to Hiestand, another driver crashed into the passenger side of the vehicle as Joey Tanona slept in a reclining position. 

“It was probably a good thing because his body was limp,” Hiestand said. “They always say if that happens you’re better off (than) if he had been awake and braced or something.”

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Tanona has missed class, Marcus Freeman said recently, as he slowly recovers from his brain injury. Hiestand said Tanona had yet to be cleared to return for any physical activity, and it was unknown if that would happen before spring practice ends on April 23. 

“We’re hoping,” Hiestand said. “We’re still waiting. He’s not there yet.”

Jarrett Patterson on the mend

Starting center Jarrett Patterson said he will be out of the sling on his left arm by next week as the senior continues to rehab following early March surgery on a torn pectoral muscle. 

“I was told six weeks, but progress has been going good,” Patterson said. 

Notre Dame offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson (right) during Notre Dame Spring Practice on Saturday, April 02, 2022, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

He said the sling will be removed 4 ½ weeks after surgery. The initial injury was suffered while doing 225-pound bench presses. 

For now Patterson is confined to riding the stationary bike, the Stairmaster and doing one-arm presses. He hopes to return to full bench work sometime in May and remains on track to be full-go by fall camp. 

Hiestand has been impressed with Patterson in the way he’s approached film study and mental repetitions while watching practice. 

► More:Notre Dame center Jarrett Patterson to miss spring practice with chest injury

“A-plus leader,” Hiestand said. “It was super that he came back. He makes an impact. He’s an impact guy that helps pull the thing together. He’ll be back. He’ll be strong.”

While cross-training is ordinarily a key part of the Hiestand program, there are no plans to give Patterson work at guard in fall camp. 

“I would want to get him some guard work, just for him personally, but it would’ve been this spring,” Hiestand said. “But not now. We’ll be right up against it getting him ready.”

Raves for Rocco Spindler

Hiestand isn’t one to offer praise lightly, but his enthusiasm for redshirt freshman guard Rocco Spindler was hard to miss. 

“He’s a battler,” Hiestand said. “He’s a fighter. You love him. You can’t not love the kid. He loves football. He pours his heart and soul into every practice. He fights like hell.”

Notre Dame offensive lineman Rocco Spindler (50) during Notre Dame Spring Practice on Saturday, April 02, 2022, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

Currently working as the backup at both guard spots, the Clarkston, Mich., product could yet force his way into the lineup. 

“He’ll make mistakes because he’s young, but it’s not because of lack of effort,” Hiestand said. “You love his demeanor and the way he appreciates the sport. He just loves getting after it. Physical. Some guys like contact more than others. He loves contact, so it’s hard not to like him. I’m excited about his progress.” 

Bundle up

Saturday morning’s chilly forecast fits nicely with a 10:45 a.m. scrimmage at Notre Dame Stadium. 

While snow should clear out by Friday, Saturday’s temperatures are set to range from 30 to 39 degrees as the Irish work outside for the first time this spring.

“Perfect,” said left guard Andrew Kristofic, a Pittsburgh-area product. “Good to run the ball, and (it) makes getting hit hurt a little bit more, so you just have to deliver a blow then.” 

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman hugs Zeke Correll during Notre Dame’s spring football practice on Thursday, March 17, 2022, inside the Irish Athletic Complex in South Bend.

Zeke Correll, filling in at center for Patterson, grew up in Cincinnati and has no issues with the cold. 

“I love it,” he said. “That’s awesome for me. I love it. I love it. I definitely prefer the cold to the hot. If it’s snowing, I don’t care. I’ll be out there. As long as it’s not 100 degrees outside.” 

Kristofic, though, is looking forward to seeing the sun at some point after this latest cold snap.

“That’s good for practice, but I’m ready for some warmer weather at this point too,” he said. “It needs to be spring.”

Tragedy for Owusu-Koramoah

Joshua Owusu-Koramoah, older brother of former Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, died Tuesday in a Hampton, Va., house fire that was reportedly being investigated as a homicide. 

Joshua Owusu-Koramoah, who lived at the residence, was 23. He played linebacker from 2016-18 at William & Mary, where he was enrolled in the pre-med program. 

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah won the Butkus Award in 2020 as the nation’s top linebacker in college football. Now with the Cleveland Browns, who drafted him in the second round last spring, the former Irish star joined Manti Te’o (2012) and Jaylon Smith (2015) as the only Notre Dame players to win the Butkus Award since its establishment in 1985.

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.