Notre Dame football: Fox's farewell may soar

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Prior to Notre Dame’s home finale last season, Dan and Kathleen Fox raced toward each other and performed what can best be described as a flying hip bump, the kind more often performed by wide receivers following touchdown catches, not inside linebackers and their mothers celebrating senior day.

The well-executed move was a hit, in more ways than one.

On Saturday, Fox, now a fifth-year senior, will celebrate his second (and final) senior day when Notre Dame hosts BYU. And yes, Kathleen Fox has floated some ideas past her son.

“My mom came up with some crazy ideas and I was like, ‘No, this is my last time. We’re not doing anything crazy like that,’” Fox insisted. “She wants to but I think I’m shutting that down. She’s always trying to do something like that. I don’t think I’m going to be doing that this year though.”

But, just in case mom has her way ...

“Oh man, I don’t want to spill the beans just in case something happens because you never know with her,” Fox said last week, already giving hint that his mother’s will was beginning to be imposed. “She could just get something to happen, but she wants to do a dance or a handshake or something like that.”

Whatever transpires, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Fox expects more emotion than he experienced last November, when he knew that the fifth-year option he retained because he sat out the 2009 season would be invoked in 2013. In fact, already there have been those moments of contemplation and reflection.

“Even in some of the games here this year, I kind of started to get that feeling like, ‘Oh, this is coming to an end,’” said Fox, who came to ND from the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River, Ohio. “It’s sad, it’s bittersweet because I’ve had such a great time here. I’m really happy that I chose to come to Notre Dame and I’m just really excited for the last game.”

The last home game last year was a day in which Notre Dame began the day 10-0 and ranked third nationally. It ended with the Irish 11-0 and vaulting to the top spot in the rankings after Kansas State and Oregon, the two teams ahead of them, lost.

This year, ND enters 7-3 and unranked, a bowl game a given, but it won’t be the BCS National Championship game, last year’s destination.

In a way, the disappointment of falling short of a championship goal helps put in perspective what Fox and his classmates tried to instill, and that’s a heightened bar.

“It’s just an expectation of dominance. You just want to be a dominant program,” Fox said, “and when you’re not it’s a bit of a disappointment.”

There were other disappointments along the way, particularly the September stretch when Fox’s playing time was pinched because he wasn’t 100 percent. That period also coincided with the emergence of Jarrett Grace, whose season ended early last month when he suffered a broken leg against Arizona State.

“During that time I really felt like I wasn’t 100 percent physically. I just wanted to make sure I was able to physically get back to the ability that I knew I could play at,” said Fox, who sits second on the team in tackles with 66. “I feel really good now so I’m just focused on BYU.”

With the focus during last week’s bye largely on getting healthy, the Irish defense appears to be returning to norm in terms of manpower. In the middle of it all on Saturday will be classmates and good buddies Fox and Carlo Calabrese. The two shared the inside linebacker spot opposite Manti Te’o last year and now are the two starters inside.

“I’ll remember them as two guys that played a lot of football alongside (each other),” ND coach Brian Kelly said.

Any talk of legacies, at least from Fox, however, will have to wait.

“I don’t really think about the big picture. I realize it’s my last home game, so I really want to win,” Fox said. “That’s really what I’m thinking.”


Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Notre Dame's Dan Fox runs with the ball after recovering a fumble during the Shamrock Series game between Notre Dame and Arizona State on Saturday, October 5, 2013, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN via FTP