A nice place to start
There might be hope for this Notre Dame football season.
Why, you may ask.
Dynamic quarterback's gone. Heisman Trophy runner-up, the heart and soul of the defense, departed. Schedule's a killer, and the question sare plenty.
Optimism had little to do with what happened during Saturday's 28-6 win over Temple, except for a brief, relatively obscure situation late in the third quarter.
Notre Dame running back Cam McDaniel was battling. Relegated to an afterthought behind George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle, the 5-foot-10, 207-pound junior is fighting to get noticed and earn a spot in the rotation.
Midway through the third quarter, with the ball at the Temple 20, McDaniel found an opening and headed toward the end zone. He was dragged down two yards shy of the goal line. McDaniel got up and was visibly upset that he didn't score.
No big deal, get it on the next one. Except ... There wasn't a next one.
As McDaniel headed back to the huddle, Atkinson jogged out on the field and replaced him. Surprised at first, McDaniel regrouped and trotted off the field.
On the next snap, Atkinson bulled over for the touchdown.
There was no sulking by McDaniel. No pouting. He headed onto the field to be the first player to greet Atkinson with a jumping hip bump to celebrate the score.
In this day and age of selfish, me-first athletes, that simple act was special. Probably few of the 80,000-plus in Notre Dame Stadium noticed what happened. Even fewer recognized the implications.
Brian Kelly noticed.
Afterward, the Irish head coach blamed himself for McDaniel not getting a reward for his impressive run. It's an unwritten rule that after a near miss, the guy gets another shot.
"We got a little too technical (with a personnel grouping), that was my fault," Kelly said of McDaniel. "He should have stayed in. He carried the load."
Still, McDaniel didn't pack it in.
"We ask our guys to look at three things," said Kelly, who won his 200th career game as a head coach and signed a five-year contract extension all on the same day. "We want them to be smart, disciplined and selfless. That's the core of our football team.
"It's probably exemplified in most positions, but at the running back position, that is Cam McDaniel.
"Heck, he ran through the gauntlet (at a practice that was filmed by ESPN and was a YouTube sensation) the wrong way for me (laughter rocks the room). You remember that? It doesn't get any more selfless than that."
It's an attitude that could continue to be contagious.
"The attitude (McDaniel showed) on that play defines our (running back) room," said Carlisle. "It's a competitive room. We have great talent from top to bottom. We're also a collective unit. We're really unified.
"It doesn't matter with personal stats for us. As long as we're doing the job to help our team win the game."
An approach like that can take a team a long way.
Hope is a nice place to start.