Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Football Looking To Fill Leadership Roles

April 1, 2003

by Tori Blainey

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Irish returned to the field for their second practice of the spring season Tuesday afternoon. Practice remained centered around individual sessions on fundamentals and techniques, or as senior cornerback Preston Jackson put it, “doing the little things to help us get better.”

“The morale is high and everyone’s excited to get back on the field” Jackson continued. He said the emphasis each day is on making the team stronger through individual development.

With the graduation of their four captains — wide receiver Arnaz Battle, left guard Sean Mahan, strong safety Gerome Sapp and right cornerback Shane Walton — the Irish are looking for some individuals to take a step up and assume a leadership role both on and off the field for the 2003 season.

“Everyone’s going to have to [step up], that’s basically how it is,” noted Jackson.

“We still have Courtney [Watson] in the middle, he’s a big leader on the defensive side. We’re going to need someone to show up on the offensive side and be a more vocal leader.”

With visions of becoming a key player in 2003, Jackson reports that he’s working to improve every aspect of his game during spring practices.

“I need to improve my all round game, everything from technique to speed and strength,” he said.

“I just need to get better every day.”

Continuing his role with the special teams units will also lend a hand to developing Jackson as a leader on the Notre Dame football team. With over 100 special teams appearances in his debut season as a sophomore in 2001 as well as last year’s key contributions, Jackson has the knowledge and experience to ignite the field in special situations. Since special teams positions have yet to be determined, Jackson is patiently awaiting the fall preseason camp, saying, “it’s only spring ball — the fall will come around.”

Along with special teams assignments, Jackson and the entire Notre Dame football team are anxiously awaiting their first opponent, BCS qualifier Washington State. The first game of the season will be at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 6, 2003.

“It’s hard to practice so long and not play anybody so when that week comes and we’ve prepared for Washington State and that game comes around on Saturday, it’s going to be nice and special, being a home game,” Jackson explained.

The Irish will take a break Wednesday and will resume spring practice sessions Thurs., April 3 with visions of Washington State dancing in their heads.

— ND —