Notre Dame CB Troy Pride Jr. proving he's more than exceptional speed

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Angela Pride didn’t have to worry about her son.

Of course, she didn’t know that at first, and could you blame her? Imagine a skinny 7-year-old Troy Pride Jr. embarking on his first season of tackle football. Angela didn’t know how he’d handle the physicality. She didn’t know if the wrong hit at the wrong time might break her baby boy.

She didn’t know that, in reality, she should have been worried about everybody else.

“I was really concerned about him playing football,” Angela Pride said this week. “I was worried just as a mom with the contact, because they were tackling at seven. So they had Troy on defense early. When I saw him hit another kid, it took my worries away. I was like, ‘OK, I don’t have to worry, because he’s going to be the one giving the hits.’

“After that first year he played mostly offensively but he was so fast that he was uncatchable and he was basically going to outrun you. He didn’t take a lot of hits, so I didn’t have to worry about that aspect, either.”

These days, Angela doesn’t worry. For her son — a 6-foot, 187-pound sophomore cornerback — hits are nothing new.

Especially last Saturday. Especially against Navy.

In his second consecutive start, and the fifth start of his career, Pride piled up six tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup and a timely interception.

More importantly, he showcased the physicality his mother first saw when he was seven.

“When you play corner against Navy, you can't just back up and backpedal,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said after the game. “You still have to be able to force the football and you have to be able to take on a block and defeat a block. So I think if I was to say what Troy did today is he became more of a complete player in the sense that he had to get into the action.

“He's been playing wide corner and you're not really in the action there, right? He was in the action today. He had to get off blocks, make tackles and get his nose dirty today, and I thought he did a nice job.”

Of course, Pride’s speed was never in question. In the spring of his senior year at Greer High School in Greer, S.C., the multi-sport star won state track and field titles in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and 400-meter relay. On the gridiron, he posted 41 catches for 848 yards and 13 touchdowns, 183 rushing yards and three rushing scores, 437 return yards and three touchdowns, three interceptions and a pick-six … in his senior season alone.

To borrow a word from his mother, he was still uncatchable.

And not just between the end zones. This offseason, Pride joined the Notre Dame track and field team, eventually becoming the group’s top men’s sprinter.

The Irish cornerbacks have dubbed themselves “The Justice League,” and Pride, of course, is “Flash.”

So, yeah, he’s fast.

But that’s not all he is.

“His tenacity … he’s always had it,” Angela Pride said. “Troy was the type of kid that, if he fumbled the ball, he would get up, chase the kid down and almost kill him to try to get the ball back. That’s how I kind of knew that this kid has a drive like none other.”

That drive propelled Pride into the cornerback rotation in his first two falls in South Bend, after he started each season buried on the depth chart. It has allowed him to start five games in his brief collegiate career and compile 32 tackles along the way.

It will likely land Pride in the starting lineup again on Saturday, when AP No. 9 Notre Dame (9-2) meets AP No. 20 Stanford (8-3) with a New Year’s Six bowl appearance potentially on the line.

With the triple option out of the way, Notre Dame’s cornerbacks — Pride included — will be tasked with limiting Stanford sophomore quarterback K.J. Costello, who has passed for 993 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions and completed 60.7 percent of his passes in eight games this season.

It’s a pressure situation, but Angela Pride isn’t worried.

She’s excited. She’s anxious. She’s proud.

She’s full.

“Just to see his hard work paying off, man, I can’t even describe it. It just has me full,” Angela Pride said. “He’s living his dream. This is what he’s been doing it for since he was seven years old — to play at a high level, to be on TV, for me to hear his name being called.

“So I’m just ecstatic about the fact that he’s living his dream right now.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Troy Pride Jr. (18) celebrates an interception during the Notre Dame-Navy NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN