Notre Dame football team bowling for a cause

South Bend Tribune

MISHAWAKA — Hitches arrived in the form of a gutter ball (or two).

There were a few surprised looks from members of the Notre Dame football team when an attempt at picking up a spare ended up like an incomplete pass.

And there was even a wardrobe malfunction in the form of an Irish player managing to somehow tear his shorts. While bowling.

Beyond that, though, Sunday morning's bowling event at Strikes & Spares Event Center was nothing but smiles and good feelings as the Notre Dame chapter of Uplifting Athletes bowled with fans to raise research funds for osteosarcoma.

Sunday's event, which raised approximately $4,000, was the second held by the ND football team, both spearheaded by rising senior inside linebacker Joe Schmidt.

"It's something I felt I was called to do. I was approached with this idea, and I said from the beginning this is something that I really feel like we can make a difference and I should be that person," Schmidt said. "Why not Notre Dame football?"

Osteosarcoma is a rare malignant bone cancer that affects children. The Irish chose that cause in honor of Sam Grewe, a freshman at Northridge High School who was diagnosed with the condition in 2011 but has been cancer-free for more than a year.

"It's awesome to see all the support and to see that people are still on my side, looking for a cure and to raise awareness," Grewe said Sunday. “It's really fun, nice to see.”

Uplifting Athletes is a national nonprofit organization that aligns college football with rare diseases.

"I like to say that we provide the tool kit and they can build whatever they want," said Becky Mayes, a chapter manager with the organization. "It really is theirs. We encourage them to put their own personality, their own unique touch into everything they do."

And Sunday's had a lot of Irish football personality involved. Players bowled with fans. They posed for pictures. They interacted with Grewe and his friends.

"It's great to be out here, being able to give back," kicker/punter Kyle Brindza said. "Sam's been a big part of our brotherhood at Notre Dame."

"We're out having fun, raising awareness; it's a good cause," said senior-to-be defensive lineman Chase Hounshell. "Just a good event."

And there were doses of good — along with not good — bowling.

Schmidt, asked to identify the top bowler at the event, quickly pointed out that he would not be a subject in that conversation. The guys at the top of the list? Some "old guys," and rising sophomore wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr.

"He's good at all that random stuff," Schmidt said, "and by random stuff I mean everything."

Hounshell, however, begged to differ.

"I think by far me and Kyle Brindza will take home the best bowler award," Hounshell said. "But there's a lot of bad bowlers out there."

One of those he may have been referring to was senior center Nick Martin, whose score failed to reach triple digits. Late during the event, Martin was rolling the ball between his legs, perhaps not a bad tactic considering his day job.

"Whatever works," Martin said. "Whatever gets the job done."

Freshman linebacker Michael Deeb's job became more challenging early in the event when his shorts suddenly tore.

"He's one of the more aggressive people I know, and he just attacked the bowling alley,” Schmidt said. “That's how he lives his life, and I have no problems with that. I love that as a linebacker. He got a little too aggressive with his shorts and ripped them in half."

A long day at the alley was averted when it turned out that Schmidt had an extra pair of shorts handy.

"Luckily, I have my entire wardrobe in my car," Schmidt said.

Schmidt estimated that 50 bowlers were on hand, in addition to the players. One of those was his father, Joe, who had been in Cleveland on business but was able to spend a few days in South Bend helping coordinate before heading back to the family home in Cali-fornia.

"It's real special," the elder Schmidt said. "It's a little emotional because you see a side of him. Your son is so focused on football, which is fantastic, but you like to know he's developing as a better person in the sense of growing as an adult. These are things I think that are going to translate really well for him for the rest of his life by giving back. It's also good to bring the team together in a way that's outside of football in a way they're seeing the impact they can have on so many people for a positive cause."; 574-235-6428

Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Notre Dame football players Jaylon Smith (from left), Hunter Smith and EJ Soto are full of excitement as they watch the ball of Jerzee Sikora, 9, during a charity bowling event Sunday at Strikes & Spares in South Bend. (SBT Photo/MIKE HARTMAN)