Jan. 9, 2003
Notre Dame, Ind. – The Notre Dame football team will be well represented in the various college football all-star games scheduled to get underway on Saturday, Jan. 11, with the East-West Shrine Game and conclude with the Hula Bowl on Feb. 8.
Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham, offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick and defensive coordinator Kent Baer will coach the East team at the East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco, while Notre Dame offensive tackle Jordan Black and strong safety Gerome Sapp will suit up for the East on Saturday.
Willingham, who took the Irish to a 10-3 record in his first season as head coach, was named the Home Depot Coach of the Year, the Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year and was The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year in 2002. Willingham became the first coach in Notre Dame history to lead his team to 10 wins in his inaugural season.
Diedrick was instrumental in the development of Irish junior quarterback Carlyle Holiday in 2002. Among his many accomplishments, Holiday tied the Notre Dame record for touchdown passes in a game with four against Rutgers. Baer was named one of five finalists for the Frank Broyles Award given to the nation’s outstanding assistant coach in 2002. Baer’s defense ranked in the top 15 nationally in every major category this season.
Black was one of the leaders on the offensive line in 2002 and finished his career starting 42 of 43 games for the Irish and playing over 1,000 minutes. Sapp was the leader of the Irish secondary, which was one of the best in the nation in 2002. The senior from Houston, Texas, finished the year with 71 tackles, good for fourth on the team, four interceptions and one fumble recovery for a touchdown against Purdue.
The Senior Bowl is set for Saturday, Jan. 18, in Mobile, Ala. Irish consensus All-America cornerback Shane Walton and leading receiver Arnaz Battle are scheduled to play in the game. Walton became Notre Dame’s first consensus All-American since Bobby Taylor in 1994. He was a unanimous selection as he was named to the first teams of the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers’ Association of America, The Sporting News, the Walter Camp Foundation, Pro and College Football Weekly, CNNSI.com and the Associated Press teams in 2002. Walton, who was one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award given to the nation’s outstanding defensive player, finished the season with 68 tackles, good for fifth on the Irish, seven interceptions and seven pass breakups. One of four team captains, he also was named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for his heroics versus Michigan in a 25-23 Irish victory.
Battle, also a team captain, finished the season with 58 catches for 786 yards and five touchdowns in 2002. The senior from Shreveport, La., became only the fifth player in Irish history to record more than 50 catches in a season and the first since Ken MacAfee in 1977. Battle’s 58 catches ranked third on the Notre Dame single-season list. A dangerous kick returner as well, Battle was named the Independence Bowl Foundation Sportsman of the Year and was the Westwood One/State Farm Student Athlete of the Year in 2002.
Senior offensive lineman and captain Sean Mahan is Notre Dame’s lone participant in the Gridiron Classic set for Jan. 25 in Orlando, Fla. The Tulsa, Okla., native started all 13 games for the Irish in 2002 and finished second on the team, behind center Jeff Faine, in minutes played. Mahan was named the Notre Dame Guardian of the Year for his consistent play in 2002.
Black, from Rowlett, Texas, will also play in the 2003 Hula Bowl scheduled for Feb. 8 in Maui, Hawaii. Black joins a long line of Irish players to participate in the game including current NFL players Rocky Boiman and Grant Irons (2002), Dan O’Leary (2001) and Bobby Howard (1999).