Sept. 16, 2005
By Katie Stuhldreher
No one will dispute that new Irish head coach Charlie Weis can be demanding. According to Weis, the loss of three fifth-year senior tight ends serves as no excuse for wasting a season on rebuilding that position. Instead, Weis has suggested running offensive packages with two or even three tight ends. Not only that, but he also expects his tight ends to be dual threats, able and willing to execute both the pass and the run.
Call it the luck of the Irish, but Notre Dame has just the man for the job. Senior tight end Anthony Fasano, a 6-5, 255-pound former state champion in javelin, is an intimidating match-up for any unfortunate linebacker attempting to break by him. However, for a guy his size, Fasano is surprisingly agile and capable of making tough catches in traffic. Not only that, but he is confident that he can handle anything Weis can dish out.
Fasano says, “It’s definitely a dictatorship here, but it’s good to see the guys loose. [Coach Weis] is just here to win football games, and once the team gets that mentality I think we’re going to be really good. He knows how to use our strengths to his advantage.”
And Weis sees Fasano as one of the Irish’s biggest strengths this season. In August, Fasano was named to the John Mackey Award watch list for the second year running. The John Mackey Award is an annual award for the best collegiate tight end in the nation.
“It’s my second year on the watch list and it’s really nice to be recognized nationally with the other tight ends. But I’m not much into personal awards. I’d rather win each week than get personal accolades,” says Fasano.
Fasano’s versatility and leadership will certainly help the Irish in their pursuit of weekly victory. Last season, Fasano ranked second on the team with a career-best 27 receptions for 367 yards and four touchdowns, doubling his number of scores from the previous season.
Fasano not only made catches last season, but history as well when he recorded eight receptions for 155 yards against Purdue to set a new single-game record for Irish tight ends.
But Fasano isn’t satisfied yet. He says, “Personally, I want to develop into one of the best tight ends in the nation and I want to help this team on offense and to win every game. I don’t want to have any regrets in the end.”
Even though Fasano considers himself to be a team player above all else, his ability to distinguish himself as a playmaker initially caught the attention of college recruiters. As a senior at Verona High School in New Jersey, Fasano set a new county record with 23 touchdowns from 78 receptions for 1,460 yards.
A big blocker with the ability to catch like a wide receiver is an invaluable asset for any offense. Last season, Irish quarterback Brady Quinn echoed this sentiment as he told The South Bend Tribune, “Before [Fasano] was doing a great job as far as blocking assignments, but he’s kind of come out and been almost a big-play wide receiver though he is at a tight end position for us making plays and making things happen.”
No one appreciates this more than Weis. The New England Patriots completed 56 passes to tight ends for 11 touchdowns in the regular season under Weis last year. Furthermore, he served as the Patriots’ tight ends coach in 1993 and 1994, pushing Ben Coates to set an NFL record for receptions by a tight end in only his second season at that position.
Tight end Anthony Fasano turns upfield after making a catch versus Purdue in the 2004 season.
One can only imagine what Weis will do with Fasano.
Fasano said, “I’m very comfortable so far [in Weis’ offense]. I’ve done a great deal of learning along with the other tight ends. I think–I mean that’s one of his best traits, he uses what he has best. And I think we have a good group of tight ends that can really help out this offense this year.”
However, Fasano still has big shoes to fill with the departure of fifth-year senior tight ends Billy Palmer, Jerome Collins, and Jared Clark. As a senior, he will have to step into a leadership role both on and off the field.
“No matter how much they played, losing three fifth-year seniors in any position is a big deal. I know I and Marcus [Freeman] both learned a lot from them on and off the field and how they carried themselves. I think that we need to pick up that role for the younger kids and for the rest of the team,” says Fasano.
Yet on top of all this, Weis still has one more tall demand of his players–hit the books as hard as one would hit opposing linemen. Again, Fasano’s got it covered. He’s served on the Notre Dame Student Athlete Advisory Council for three years.
Fasano said that although his studies in the Mendoza College of Business have made his Notre Dame career more difficult, strong academics were an integral reason for deciding to come to South Bend.
“I’ve been on SAAC I think three years now. I’m very proud to be on it. It’s a committee of leaders from each sport and we really just try to get things done to improve the athletic department here at Notre Dame. We try to be the voice for the student-athletes. And I think it’s very important to be a part of that, for Notre Dame to make the right decisions, go in the right direction.”
Since Fasano was red-shirted as a freshman, he retains the option of returning to the Golden Dome in 2006. However, Fasano said that he wants to get through this season before thinking about graduation.
“Hopefully I’m going to play football for as long as I can. I’m definitely thinking about it, it’s a great option to have. I’m graduating in the spring, and I’ll make the decision after the season,” said Fasano.
After all, on fall Saturday afternoons in South Bend, the current game is all that matters. And if Fasano’s attitude is any indication, neither Weis nor fans will be disappointed.