Notebook: What might have been for former Notre Dame safety Max Redfield?
SOUTH BEND — Former Notre Dame All-America safety Tom Zbikowski continues to feel a nostalgic pull lately toward his alma mater.
In fact, not so long ago the feeling was so strong, the 31-year-old Chicago firefighter hopped in the car to take in a practice on campus in August.
Zbikowski’s father, Ed, recently related a story about that day with a powerful “what might have been” twist.
As Zbikowski was getting in his car to drive back to Chicago, the engine in the car next to him sputtered and struggled to turn over. Eventually, a man popped out of the car and asked Zbikowski if he had jumper cables.
As Zbikowski was hooking up the cables to give the car a jump, the man recognized the former All-America safety and asked him if the two could sit down sometime and talk shop.
The two exchanged numbers and Zbikowski went on his way, looking forward to one day sharing his knowledge of the position … with Max Redfield.
Later that same night, on Aug. 19, Redfield and four other Irish football players were pulled over by an Indiana state trooper about 50 miles south of the Notre Dame campus in Fulton County, Ind.
Redfield was subsequently charged with possession of marijuana and illegal possession of a handgun. Irish coach Brian Kelly dismissed the senior from the football team, for good, the next day.
Redfield, on schedule to complete his degree coursework in December, remains enrolled at Notre Dame, according to school officials. He has a pre-trial conference scheduled in Fulton County for Oct. 19.
As for Zbikowski, he is three victories into his second go-round at a professional boxing career that has his cumulative career record at 7-0. The cruiserweight is contemplating the next step toward elevating his comeback with higher-profile competition and stakes.
In the meantime, he has plans to add John Marshall Law School part-time to his already crowded plate. The former NFL defensive back is taking advantage of the league’s continuing education program and tuition assistance plan to enroll in May.
Green light for foursome
The four other Irish who were arrested with Redfield have all had their cases adjudicated by Notre Dame’s disciplinary arm, per head coach Brian Kelly, and all four will play Saturday against Duke.
Starting linebacker Te’von Coney and backups — running back Dexter Williams, cornerback Ashton White and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson — still have business with the legal system, however. Each faces a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana.
Watkins decision looms
More positive medical reports regarding bone growth in junior cornerback Nick Watkins’ convalescing left arm may not be enough to salvage a role this season.
It’s all about time, and Kelly said Thursday that team physician Dr. Brian Ratigan said it would likely be two more weeks before Watkins would be fully cleared, and by then Notre Dame will have six of its 12 games in the books.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from DeSoto, Texas, with one career start — against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 — suffered the injury in spring practice on April 2. Kelly said if Ratigan’s timetable is correct, the coach would lean toward a medical redshirt year.
“We played him as a freshman and probably my fault that we didn’t utilize him properly as a freshman,” Kelly said. “I don’t want to do that to the kid again.”
Junior running back Justin Brent, a converted wide receiver, has moved to the back burner as he struggled to recover from a Lisfranc (foot) fracture. Brent suffered the injury in the summer and subsequently underwent surgery.
Brent played sparingly as a freshman and redshirted in 2015 as a sophomore.
“We had him out there yesterday and he is still hobbled,” Kelly said. “We’re not even considering him right now, because then it’s going to be a long haul before he can even get into playing shape. So he’s a down-the-road guy.”
It’ll be reunion time Saturday for Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer and Duke starting left guard Zach Harmon.
The two were high school teammates at Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic.
Harmon is a 6-foot-3, 285-pound redshirt sophomore. He has come back strong from fracturing two bones in his neck in week three of Harmon’s and Kizer’s senior season at Central Catholic.
Kelly said he’ll occasionally post on his own Twitter account, but avoids ever looking at the messages people are Tweeting at him.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “You kidding? No way.”
Not that he’s oblivious to the criticism of him and the team’s 1-2 start that has dropped them from the national rankings.
“It comes with the territory,” he said. “I know what the expectations are of the football program at Notre Dame. If it (criticism) is not out there, I would be surprised. Part of when you build expectations, you’re going to get criticized.
“I have no problem with that. I get that. I’m a 1-2 football coach. And if you’re not criticizing a 1-2 football coach, then your fan base is pretty soft.”
Kickoff: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
Radio: WSBT-AM (960), WSBT-FM (96.1), WNSN-FM (101.5)
Line: Notre Dame by 20