SOUTH BEND | It had been more than three months since Stephon Tuitt’s 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Notre Dame’s Sept. 1 season opener against Navy.
In that entire time, a season in which Tuitt helped the Irish to a 12-0 record and himself earned various All-America honors, the 6-foot-6, 303-pound Tuitt had not seen a replay of his scoop and scamper.
Last week, at Notre Dame’s awards show, a clip of Tuitt’s impressive display of athleticism was shown on a big screen.
“That’s one of the things I’ll never forget as a college football player,” Tuitt said. “It’s exciting knowing I was able to make it all the way, having enough jet fuel to get to the end zone.”
Tuitt had more than enough in his tank that day, and the Irish used the victory over Navy as a runway to their 12-0 season. Next is 12-1 and second-ranked Alabama in the Jan. 7 BCS Championship Game at Miami.
It was asked of Tuitt if it’s a good thing for the Irish that some are saying the Crimson Tide are really the top team.
“I don’t care about that,” Tuitt said.
“That doesn’t bother me at all. That doesn’t affect me at all. I’m from that area,” the Miami native and Monroe, Ga., product said. “I know what that area’s about, so it’s not like it’s going to shock me.”
The Irish season was a shock to some. It wasn’t, however, to the guys inside the locker room.
“We went out there every day with the confidence to be the No. 1 team in America, and we are,” Tuitt said. “It’s not like a miracle. We worked hard for it. We worked hard to be the No. 1 team.”
Notre Dame's 1st black starting QB dies: Cliff Brown, the first black quarterback to start for Notre Dame, has died. He was 60.
Frank Matinchek of the Matinchek and Daughter Funeral Home said Friday that Brown died Monday in Harrisburg, Pa.
Brown took over during the fifth game of the season in 1971 following injuries to the top two Irish quarterbacks. He was then a sophomore.
Brown started the rest of that 8-2 season, completing 56 of 111 passes for 669 yards with four touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed 77 times for 253 yards and two scores. He finished his career 72-of-146 for 929 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and rushed 102 times for 375 yards and four scores.
Services will be held this morning in Harrisburg.
Rees at the ready: Notre Dame backup quarterback Tommy Rees has served as a mentor to starter Everett Golson but has also provided on-the-spot relief nine games this season.
Whether his chances come from injuries to Golson or a dislodged helmet, Rees continues to prepare himself the same with the BCS National Championship game on the horizon.
"I think you prepare like I have all year. Nothing changes,” Rees said. “Get to know the game plan. I got 37 more days or whatever than I usually do. Just getting ready to go. You got to stay sharp throughout the days.”
Rees has seen Golson come a long way since asking late-night questions in fall camp.
“He'd ask me what I thought he needed to improve. I don't hold anything back. I told him the truth all the time,” Rees said.
“Sometimes it wasn't what he wanted to hear. Any way I could help him. I've had a lot of fun working with him.”
Unanimous for Te’o: Friday brought the release of the 69th Football Writers Association of America All-America Team, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o received recognition once again.
Te’o has been named to a number of All-America teams since the season ended, but this specific one gave him a sweep of all five teams recognized by the NCAA to become a unanimous All-American, which also includes the teams named by the American Football Coaches Association, The Sporting News, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Associated Press.
Te’o becomes the 33rd unanimous All-American in Irish history. He’s the first ND player since wide receiver Golden Tate received the honor in 2009, the first ND defensive player since cornerback Shane Walton in 2002 and the first linebacker since Michael Stonebreaker in 1990.
And one more: Six members of the Notre Dame football team earned All-America recognition from Phil Steele, a college football publication.
Linebacker Manti Te’o and tight Tyler Eifert, both seniors, were first-teamers.
Sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt made the second team. Fifth-year senior center Braxston Cave and junior nose guard Louis Nix were third-teamers, while senior offensive tackle Zack Martin earned fourth-team honors.
Stuff winners get: As part of their reward for playing in the title game, Alabama and Notre Dame players will receive a Tourneau watch.
They’ll also participate in a gifting suite, in which they can choose from a variety of gifts that add up to the maximum amount of $400 allowed by the NCAA.
It's official: We knew the teams a couple weeks ago. Now we know the officials.
The Birmingham (Ala.) News reported this week that officials from the Pac-12 Conference will work the BCS Championship.