Oct. 24, 2002

AP Sports Writer

Jeff Faine keeps hitting defenders until the referee blows the whistle. Sometimes a little longer.

“My mindset attacking a defensive guy is to make him think about maybe not getting up the next play and maybe just giving up,” he said. “Maybe making them think this is the wrong sport for them. It’s just how I feel. It’s how I attack every block.”

It’s that mindset that impresses Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham, who describes Faine as a throwback player, the type who would have been at home playing when helmets were made of leather and had no facemasks.

“He has that kind of toughness, that kind of attitude about him,” Willingham said.

The 6-foot-3, 298-pound Faine is strong and quick. His blocks are highlighted repeatedly on telecasts of Notre Dame games, whether it’s him wrestling All-America linebacker E.J. Henderson of Maryland to the ground or pushing undersized Air Force defenders 7 yards downfield last week.

“He’s the best opposing center we’ve seen,” said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, whose 11th-ranked Seminoles host the Irish on Saturday.

Former Notre Dame tackle Aaron Taylor, who won the Lombardi Award in 1994 as the nation’s best lineman, said he loves watching Faine.

“He’s just a tough, nasty cat. He does the little things. He’s not satisfied with just making sure he gets his guy. He wants to put his guy down and punish him,” Taylor said.

Faine’s father was in the Navy so he moved around a lot until the family settled in Sanford, Fla., when Faine was 11 years old. Faine attended Seminole High School and dreamed of playing for Florida State until the Irish came along with a scholarship offer.

“The Golden Dome just shined a little brighter than Florida State’s campus did,” Faine said.

After sitting out his freshman season, Faine has started every game for the sixth-ranked Irish, rarely missing a play. He’s played with broken fingers, a sprained foot, injured ankles and assorted other aches and pains.

Against Michigan he left the field to get his ankle X-rayed, and the crowd let out a roar when he ran back out on the field minutes later.

Faine’s teammates appreciate him, too.

“He’s our leader up front,” Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday said. “When you have a guy like that on the team, it’s going to take you a long way.”