They’ve never met each other and made their millions playing different sports, but Hall of Fame basketball player David Robinson and Detroit Tiger right fielder Torii Hunter are now linked together in a very special way. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Staff writer Albert Chen (@albertcchen) describes how both fathers will be watching their talented sons, both of them wide receivers out of Texas high schools and prized prospects, play football together next season at Notre Dame.
Corey Robinson, an honor student (4.4 GPA, in the top 10 of his class) who also has a love for music and the hopes to become a doctor or lawyer never had much athletic ability growing up. He bloomed into an incredible and talented athlete at a late age just like his father, who has had reservations about his son playing on the gridiron:
“I’ve always thought football was crazy, to be honest,” David says. “A sport with a 100-percent injury rate for pro players?” (PAGE 54)
Similar to Corey Robinson, Torii Hunter Jr. was eager to make his own path and did so by excelling at both football and baseball. Torri Jr. will always have a passion for baseball and will continue playing next year at Notre Dame as well. Torri Jr. says:
“I wanted to make my own path…I just happen to be good at football” (PAGE 55)
Tori Sr. too has concerns about his son’s health with football. He says “Eventually he’ll have to make a choice. He went to Notre Dame to play football. But if he’s a first-round pick in baseball? Who Knows?” (PAGE 56)
Their fathers may have complicated feelings about their sons playing the dangerous game of football, but they also see how hard their boys have worked and how badly they want to establish their own identities.
This Year’s BCS Title Matchup Embodies the Essence of College Football
Crimson vs. Gold. Roll Tide vs. Shake Down the Thunder. Southern passion vs. Catholic pride. Notre Dame vs. Alabama is more than a battle for the national title. It’s a history-drenched showdown that embodies the essence of the game. For all their history, both of these storied programs had to climb back to this moment, and senior writer Tim Layden looks into the storied 1973 Sugar Bowl that pitted the Irish and Tide to reflect on how college football has evolved since that historic game.
Fans know this matchup embodies the passion and tradition of the sport. Mused Archie Manning, who worked the Alabama-Georgia SEC title game last weekend for CBS: “Alabama and Notre Dame. That’s college football right there” (page 98).
Following a wild weekend of upsets in college football, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history, and No.1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time since November 1993. This rise to the top lands them on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, marking the 24th time the Notre Dame football program has been featured on the cover, and the first national cover since Maurice Stovall on September 30, 2002. You can purchase this week’s cover here.
The Irish are marching onward to the national championship game – and downward from the moral high ground they have claimed for a century. In this week’s Sports Illustrated, senior writer Tim Layden goes inside the football culture change at Notre Dame, a place where the team can’t merely be good; it must also call to mind the glory of a century-long football tradition. This year’s team is the first one in awhile to do both.
Says current Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who played five years at Notre Dame, including two under current head coach Brian Kelly: “You’re expected to go to class and not just be a football player. That’s real. It’s going to be hard academically, just like it’s hard academically at a lot of schools. But we’re all just college kids, we’re all playing football, and we’re all going to make mistakes. Notre Dame is not some golden perfect place. It’s a place that tries to do the right thing” (page 57).
The undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide beat Missouri 42-10 Saturday in a romp that actually lowered Bama’s average margin of victory to 33.0 points. Coach Nick Saban holds his team to its own standard of excellence, not that of its opponent, which has created problems for opposing coaches looking for flaws to exploit. Says Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, “They are one of the best teams I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching. They’re a team that doesn’t really have any weaknesses” (page 26).
while it doesn’t look like they can be stopped en route to the national title, Andy Staples makes the case for three teams that could give the Tide a run for its money:
Three days before Notre Dame played Michigan State, star Irish linebacker Manti Te’o’s grandmother and his girlfriend died in one six-hour period. While their deaths took an obvious emotional toll, Te’o found refuge in practicing and playing, and helped Notre Dame defeat the Spartans with 12 tackles. Yet Te’o’s influence extends off the field, where he’s helped create a brotherhood among teammates and links the Irish’s glorious past and promising future, especially after spurning the NFL for the chance to complete his senior season (page 42). Subscribers in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Eastern Missouri and almost all of Ohio, as well as parts of Canada, will see Te’o on their cover this week.
Says Father Paul Doyle, the rector in Te’o’s former college dorm: “There’s a lot of emphasis on greatness at this level, but Manti is also focused on goodness.”
This might be the most compelling slate of Thanksgiving weekend games ever, if you consider the caliber of competition in both the NFL and college. And SI.com will have writers covering all the key games as fans everywhere enjoy the fixings of Turkey Day. Here’s who football fans should follow and what they’ll be covering this weekend.
Twitter Handle: @ChrisBurke_SI
Games: Packers at Lions, Dolphins at Cowboys, 49ers at Ravens
What to Watch For: Peter King calls this trio of games “the best [Thanksgiving] tripleheader since the league added the night game in 2006.” Can the Lions solidify their playoff positioning and ground the seemingly unstoppable Packers offense? Will the Cowboys surge ahead of the Giants in the NFC East thanks to their easier schedule in the next two weeks? Which Harbaugh will win the NFL’s first ever matchup of sibling head coaches? Our Audibles blogger, Chris Burke, will have reactions to all of these storylines as they play out on Thursday.
Twitter Handle: @Andy_Staples
Games: Arkansas at LSU, Alabama at Auburn
What to Watch For: The top three teams in the BCS don’t just share the same conference, they’re in the same division. Staples, SI.com’s resident SEC expert (and a former walk-on lineman with Florida), will be in Baton Rouge for No. 1 LSU vs. No. 3 Arkansas on Friday before travelling to Auburn to see the always intense Iron Bowl. These two games will determine if a Tigers-Tide rematch comes to fruition.
There’s a lot to like about SI’s college football coverage on the tablets this week. In addition to video highlights and game wrap-ups for some of the more high-profile matchups in Week 1, there’s an interview with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly — the most recent entry in SI’s Just Askin’ series. And fans who feel like waxing nostalgic will enjoy this week’s SI Digital Bonus: Curry Kirkpatrick’s Aug. 31, 1981 cover story on Georgia’s star running back Herschel Walker.
As part of senior writer Tim Layden’s (@SITimLayden) story on sports and 9/11, readers can click to read A Patriot’s Tale, which ran in the issue immediately following the attacks 10 years ago. Senior writer Scott Price, who lived with TCU coach Gary Patterson in 1986 while Patterson was at UC Davis, chats with media writer Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) about the year he shared a roof with one of today’s best coaches. There’s also senior writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) providing his final thoughts in advance of NFL Week 1 as well as extra photos from last week’s IAAF World Championships and video highlights of WNBA star Diana Taurasi. And if you are pondering your movie plans for this weekend, watch the trailer to the upcoming MMA film Warrior.