Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Burrell and Defense Step Up

Dec. 4, 2003

By Katie Stuhldreher

No one understands football tradition like Quentin Burrell. The junior free safety carried his strong family football tradition to Notre Dame Stadium and into the starting rotation for the Irish this season. Burrell has been a crucial element of the solid Irish defense this season as he saved numerous touchdowns, made 26 tackles and had one interception.

Burrell started playing organized football when he was seven years old. He reflected that the football tradition in his family influenced him immensely when he was young. His great-grandfather, Eddie Robinson, retired as the winningest coach in college football history with a record of 408-165-15 and eight national black college titles in his 58 years at Grambling (he is now second on the all-time list).

“The football tradition in my family influenced me 100 percent. It wasn’t something that was forced on me, but I genuinely liked from being around my grandfather and going to practices and games when I was young,” Burrell reflected.

Burrell’s interest in bringing this passion for the game to Notre Dame started in his senior year of high school when he decided that even though he was from the South and had considered playing for schools like Florida State or Georgia, Notre Dame was the right place for him.

“Notre Dame has strong academics, as well as good football, which is important to my family. So despite not liking the cold weather, there is something special about this place,” Burrell commented.

Burrell joined the Irish as a cornerback but transitioned to free safety in the 2002 season.

“The transition was pretty easy because I had played both positions in high school. I’m actually more used to playing safety, so when I moved there, it was second nature,” Burrell said.

As a safety, Burrell moved into the secondary rotation behind senior safety Glenn Earl for the start of the 2003 season.

“Working with Glenn was a pleasure. His words of advice as well as the opportunity to observe how he played really helped me. It was an honor to learn from him,” Burrell said.

One of the biggest challenges for the defense this season was finding people to step up to account for the loss of such crucial players such as Gerome Sapp and Shane Walton. Burrell did just that as he moved smoothly into the starting rotation during the season.

Burrell commented that his biggest contribution to the team is his ability to cover the field from sideline to sideline. This is crucial for Irish defensive objectives as Coach Willingham stresses swarming to the ball to contain the opponent’s offense.

The Irish defense definitely succeeded in fulfilling these objectives in Notre Dame’s resounding 57-7 victory over Stanford.

“The Stanford game was fun. We came out, executed and just blew them out of the water,” Burrell added.

This was the first big win Notre Dame had all season. Burrell commented that this late-season improvement is not the result of any change in the defense, but simply executing the things that they have been doing all year.

“We didn’t do anything differently against Stanford. We were just persistent in what we have been doing. Now things are going the way we want and all the chips are falling into place,” Burrell added.

Burrell and the rest of the Irish look to close out the season with another decisive win against Syracuse on Saturday, Dec. 6.