Notre Dame football notebook: Kinder familiar with crowded backfield

South Bend Tribune

Randy Kinder looks at Notre Dame’s teeming running back depth chart and gets a little nostalgic — and nauseous.

The current five-man rotation that runs into the nation’s No. 1 defense, Michigan State’s, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium hits close to home for the now 38-year-old former Irish running back who spent his entire career in a time share.

“When you’re a young guy coming in, it’s a lot easier than when you’re an older guy,” said Kinder, who played at ND in the final four seasons of the coach Lou Holtz Era (1993-96). “We knew when we got an opportunity, we had to make the most of it.”

Kinder, though, was so fearful about fumbling, he said he actually carried a football around campus at times to heighten his attention to ball security.

“We had so many backs and fullbacks who got touches, but we were very, very cohesive. We took a lot of pride in blocking. We’d have competitions with each other to see how many cut blocks we could get on defensive ends and outside linebackers. It was healthy and really supportive competition, so it worked out well.”


“The flip side of that for me is going into my senior year, we had a young guy behind me who kind of blew things away. And I found myself struggling to get as much playing time as possible. It’s a difficult thing. It’s something where you have to be very strong of mind and look for your spots. We were lucky because we had a good group who were very supportive and tried to keep us all focused on the team winning more than anything else.”

The player who crept up and took away carries Kinder’s senior season?

Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher, Autry Denson.

Kinder had been ND’s leading rusher in the two seasons before that and still finished with 2,295 career yards and a 5.7 career yards-per-carry average.

The hope for Kinder was to come to South Bend this Saturday to see No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1) face Michigan State (3-0), the team he grew up in East Lansing, Mich., cheering for in person, as well as welcome Holtz back to campus.

Holtz will be the guest of honor and featured speaker at the annual Lou’s Lads Reunion Dinner, Friday night at the ND Corporate Hospitality Village on campus. Dozens of Holtz Era players will be on hand as well for the event, which is open to the public.

Tickets are on sale and more details are available at

Kinder’s fingerprints are all over the event, as one of the Lou’s Lads’ most active members, but he will be unable to attend this particular function, because he’s working full time in Washington, D.C., as a senior vice president for AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and has a grad school conflict. He’s working on his master’s in business administration at the University of Maryland.

“Most of my time is at work or doing schoolwork or sleeping or figuring out a way to make it up to my wife that I’m so busy,” Kinder said. “I’ll finally get my MBA in July, and, believe me, my wife is counting the hours.”

But she’s also a big fan of Lou’s Lads’ mission.

The organization, inspired by Leahy’s Lads from the coach Frank Leahy Era, comprises former ND football players who played during the Holtz Era (1986-96). Among the group’s most visible functions is raising money for scholarships for underprivileged students and legacies. Among their other charges are providing funds for the surviving families of passing members. That includes recently the family of the late Mirko Jurkovic.

The group came together not long after Holtz held a reunion during the Charlie Weis regime, built around Blue-Gold Game weekend in the spring. All the players who had played for Holtz during his 11 seasons at ND were invited for a dinner at South Dining Hall on campus.

“I think a lot of us had either drifted away from the school or weren’t as involved,” Kinder said. “It’s tough when there are different coaching staffs and you don’t really know anybody left. But Lou basically told us, ‘Listen, I understand some of you may have drifted away. Some of you might have a bad taste in your mouth, ’cause I think some guys didn’t feel as connected as they did in the past.’

“But he said. ‘This university is yours.” His whole point was you’ve got to embrace it. He said that if you’re not enjoying this university and really embracing your heritage, the piece of history you have with this school, then you’re just hurting yourself and, frankly, you’re hurting your kids and your family, who deserve to have that history.”

Once the service arm of Lou’s Lads went into action, Kinder and several of his former Irish teammates — including Jeff Burris, Reggie Fleurima and Brian Hamilton — went to impoverished Caribbean nation Haiti three years ago to get a look at Notre Dame’s Haiti program and be a part of that, how ever briefly.

“I’ll never forget all the things I saw where work has to be done,” Kinder said. “But I’ll also never forget the fantastic mission Notre Dame has embraced down there that reminded us all the amazing school we all went to.”

Notre Dame's Randy Kinder carries the ball against Texas in the 1996 season.