Nov. 14, 2007
Q. John Sullivan, obvious question, with the injury and how you’re dealing with that, your last home game has sort of come and gone before you even do it basically?
John Sullivan: It’s pretty disappointing for me obviously. But at the same time, you know, it’s part of the game of football. You know, injuries are going to happen. It presents me with an opportunity to take on a new role this week and really focus on trying to help out the guys, have almost a coaching perspective, where I’m watching, I’m observing and critiquing and just trying to help the other guys to go out there and get a win.
Q. Do you think there’s any chance you can play at Stanford?
John Sullivan: I think it would be premature to make any decisions about that now or any statements.
Q. On a different note, with Sam Young, obviously you’re in the huddle with him. Do you see potential in him to take more of a leadership role, sort of what you’ve taken in terms of guiding these guys? I talked to Coach Weis earlier this week specifically about that. What do you see in him that might allow him to do that?
John Sullivan: I think there’s great potential for Sam to have a leadership role, first of all, because he’s a hard worker. And leadership, it’s hard to be a vocal leader if you don’t lead by example, so I think he’ll have that going for him.
The other thing is he has a lot of experience, and experience is key not just to football but especially along the offensive line. He’s a guy that can be vocal, so I think there’s definitely a great potential for him in the future to move into that role.
Q. Travis first, could you each of you talk about some of the things that have been going through your head this week in your last home game?
Travis Thomas: I’m not really thinking about this being my last home game. When I prepare for the game I’m doing the things I need to do to go out there and give us the best chance of winning, so that’s what’s on my mind.
You know, as far as it being the last home game, I think it starts with me rolling through and playing until it’s 0:00 in the fourth quarter.
John Carlson: I’m sure it’ll be an emotional experience. As Travis said, it’s another game on the schedule and we need to prepare to do whatever we can to help this team win. Hopefully that won’t affect the way I play or whatever. But I know that when that clock winds out, it’ll really be an emotional time for me.
John Sullivan: You know, I kind of experienced the whole emotional aspect last week. But you know, going into this week, just like John and Travis, I’m focused on trying to help the team win in whatever role that I’m required to take. It’s a part I’m going to try to fill. Obviously there’s going to be disappointment, but I think a win would help that quite a bit.
Q. Coach Weis said yesterday in reference to the last home game two years ago at Syracuse he was a little bit taken aback and surprised by the reaction and the emotion of some of the seniors. Have you guys seen that in the past? Did you guys know that you were coming back last year for the home game? For the last home game did you know that you were coming back this year?
Travis Thomas: At that time I hadn’t made a decision whether or not I was going to come back. I wasn’t sure. But it was definitely emotional just because a lot of the guys that you came in with, you knew it was their last time and they weren’t going to be there anymore. It’s definitely an experience to remember. But it wasn’t as emotional and maybe this one will be because I knew I had a year and I wasn’t sure what my decision was going to be.
John Carlson: I was not able to play in the Army game last year and I kind of had to watch from the sidelines. It was tough. I was pretty sure that I was going to come back, so that helps, but at the same time a lot of the guys that were not able to come back, they were my teammates, my classmates and my friends, and to not be on the field with them as they finished as they closed out their careers, it was tough.
John Sullivan: I think the whole final home game experience is one that’s emotional just because we spend such a large portion of our lives here, especially you come out of high school and we’ve all grown up so much in the past couple years, whether it was four or five for certain guys in our class. You know, we’ve developed so much as people and as football players that seeing an experience like this come to an end, there aren’t more games, but in a symbolic way never walking out of the tunnel again or playing on that field in front of our fans, it’s definitely something that’s emotional.
Q. And again, each of you, starting with you, Travis, your highlight moment in that stadium?
Travis Thomas: Probably I’d say the first time coming out of that tunnel knowing I was going to play was probably my highlight. Just the first time coming out of that tunnel, period, just the whole experience, the student section, just experiencing it for the first time and not really looking at it from a TV perspective.
John Carlson: You know, I don’t think I can limit it to one time. I remember the first time I walked out of the tunnel as a player at the University, I was walking with Ryan Harris, and we were walking out of the tunnel to go to the picture and media day. There’s a special feeling that I got at that point.
And then after that I remember the win against Michigan in 2004, I believe, it was kind of an upset win. We had just come off a loss, and the fans were obviously there. It was something I’ll never forget.
John Sullivan: To echo what John said, I was thinking about that Michigan game, as well, but you know, the senior days the past two years, Syracuse and Army, just I’ll never forget the times celebrating with my teammates after winning games. That’s the best time. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into every week and that goes into every win. You know, going out there and accomplishing that goal and being able to share that with the guys that you work hard next to and play hard next to, that’s a special thing.
Q. Lastly from me, Coach Weis was talking yesterday about when you guys go over and sing the alma mater in front of the student body. He’s amazed and has respect for the students because they’re there, regardless of the situation or the score, and I was just wondering what your perspective was on that.
Travis Thomas: Personally, and I think I can speak for everyone, we really appreciate it. From our whole time we’re, we’re one big happy family. We are students here, still are students here, and even though they’re not on the field taking any of the experiences, they’re still fighting with us, they’re still sticking in until the end, and we really appreciate that as players. I think the whole alma mater thing this time is really going to affect me personally.
John Carlson: I would say that my appreciation of and my respect for the student body has grown by leaps and bounds this year. Not that I ever didn’t have respect for them, it’s just that we haven’t put a product on the field that we’ve been proud of, and the fact that they have stayed and supported us through it all really means a lot to us.
John Sullivan: Just like these guys, I’m very appreciative. I can’t say I’m very surprised. I guess this year has been a test, like John said. They go through that, too. The student body is part of the whole experience. I’m not surprised because I know this school has a lot of character.
We talk about our team not giving up and that being a sign of having character; well, the student body has that, too. I’m not surprised that they haven’t quit on us. I’m very thankful that they haven’t, obviously. We appreciate them.
Q. John Sullivan, when you look at this week and potentially if you can’t play next week, how much do you think that that will help the offensive line going into the spring and maybe going into next year because they’ll have some cohesiveness maybe?
John Sullivan: I’m not sure anybody is looking that far ahead. It will certainly answer questions. I think if you get a group of guys out there that will be here next year, I think that’s important if I’m not able to go. I think it will help having Dan out there at center, making the line calls and identifying the middle linebacker and all those things. It’ll help the offense.
Q. If you’re not able to go this week or next week, can you just reflect a little bit on what you feel like your career has been like and what your legacy has been here?
John Sullivan: You know, I feel like — I don’t know, it’s hard to sum up a career. I think our class, we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. We’ve been through great times, we’ve been through rough times with our record like we’re going through right now. You know, we’ve never given up, and we’re going to walk out of here no matter what with our heads held high, and we’re going to be proud of what we accomplished at this school.
Q. This is for all of you. Have you made any decisions about how you’ll spend the postseason yet?
Travis Thomas: No, I haven’t made any decisions like that. Nothing as far as postseason is really going through our minds with two games left. The only thing going through our minds right now is trying get this win Saturday, enjoying the hopeful celebration that we’ll have after the game with my teammates and the guys who won’t be here anymore.
John Carlson: As Travis said, I’m focused on the task at hand. We’ve got plenty on our plates that we’re dealing with at the game this week. I’m not going to deal with postseason activities until the season is over.
John Sullivan: Too early for that.
Q. After the game Saturday I asked you how do you think the team has changed in your five years here. That would be a better question for John Sullivan to answer. How has John Carlson changed in his time here?
Travis Thomas: Can I interject here and say something? (laughter)
John Sullivan: It’s hard to answer the question. Funny, first of all, he’s gotten older, that’s for sure. You know, John came in, and he’s a small town guy, and I think he’s been exposed to a little bigger area. I think he’s matured just like the rest of us have. He’s definitely more vocal than he was when he first came in. I don’t know what that’s due to, but definitely more vocal. He’s just matured a lot as a player, as a person. I don’t know what else to say about him. He’s a great guy.
Q. To all three of you, Coach mentioned yesterday the need to kind of stay grounded. How will you go about doing that for yourselves and your teammates? There’s a fine line between using emotion to help in a game and possibly hurting you. How will you try to balance those two things?
Travis Thomas: We’re going to go about preparing for this game just like the previous ten that we’ve had, focusing on the things we need to do in order to be successful and win. Obviously football is an emotional game. The crowd has a lot to do with that. Our preparation and our emotion throughout the game has a lot to do with that. We’re just taking this as the next game that we need to try to get a win at.
John Carlson: I guess I’m not concerned about our team being overly emotional. We’ve got a lot of guys that are emotional. Using that energy, I think that’s going to be a good thing. Based on our record, we don’t have anything to lose going out there and being overly aggressive. I’m just looking forward to one more opportunity to play in this stadium, and I’m sure my classmates and my teammates feel the same way.
Q. Does it almost make it bigger, the fact that you haven’t won at home yet and you don’t want to be a team that goes out not having won a game at home this season?
John Carlson: I’ve always felt that streaks and records and things like that aren’t necessarily important. We want to win every game. Things haven’t worked out the way that we planned this year. This game is important because it’s another game on the schedule and it’s the next game on the schedule. We all want to go out with a win, and we’ve got one more opportunity.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about watching Duke, what you expect from them this week, overall impression of what you see?
Travis Thomas: I expect a lot of pressure, I expect us to have to be sound in our pass protection again. From a running back perspective, I think we saw in the last (few) weeks corner blitz slot, so I can expect to see that again. But I can expect to see a lot of different looks and running things from a lot of different angles.
John Carlson: They’re a little bit bigger, a little bit more physical than the two teams we’ve played in the last two weeks. Maybe not more physical but just bigger guys. Like Travis said, we expect them to come after us based on things that have happened this year and things that they’ve showed.
John Sullivan: Yeah, Duke has a very talented defense. They have big guys, like John said, and there’s going to be quite a bit of movement, a lot of pressure. Hopefully we can go out and execute a good offense against them.
Q. Each of you guys, can you talk about the difference in emotion at the end of the game if you win versus if you lose, because obviously if you win you get really the great celebration. Can you talk about what that would mean to get out with a win and celebrate that way in the final home game?
Travis Thomas: I don’t think you’re going to be celebrating too much if you lose. Obviously you’re going to show your appreciation to your parents and fans and your teammates and your friends, but obviously one is better than the other. You’d like to have the celebration with a win.
John Carlson: We approach every game the same way. This is our last game but we don’t treat it any differently in preparation. Obviously we’d like to go out with a win, and it’s going to be a lot more fun if we do.
John Sullivan: Just like John and Travis said, we try to win every game, so preparation is no different. It would be a great sendoff to get a win this weekend.
Q. I don’t necessarily mean preparation, just the feeling afterwards when you’re doing that alma mater, able to have that feeling of we got the win. I guess that’s more what I was asking.
John Carlson: It’s much more fun to win than to lose. I don’t think that’s anything profound. We would much rather win.
Travis Thomas: Yeah, winning is obviously better than losing. There’s nothing much more you can say than that.
Q. Especially since you haven’t won this year, in your senior year, at home?
John Sullivan: There have been so many things that we’ve had to deal with this year, streaks that have ended and different records, that we don’t necessarily want to be connected to. But it’s the nature of college football. Sometimes things go really well, sometimes things don’t go so well.
This is the last game of the year, our last chance to win a game at home this year, and all those things taken into account, basically it comes down to we want to win the game. It’s no different than if we had won every game at home this year. We’d still want to win this game just as much. We’re going to go out there and do everything we can to try to get a win.
Q. Can you talk about just the whole fan base as a whole? Because really most of the crowd is still there, no one seems to be pouring out as much as maybe in other stadiums throughout the country, no matter how the game is going.
Travis Thomas: I think that’s what makes Notre Dame Stadium and fans so unique and special and what we love most about them is through thick and thin, they’re there. Like we said before, we’re very appreciative of it, and we just want to give something back, something for them to enjoy this weekend, and try to get a win.
John Carlson: Coming back for a fifth year and having the option to — I graduated last year and I didn’t have to come back, but coming back and going through a season that didn’t go the way we planned, we didn’t win as many games as we wanted, you learn a lot of things over the course of a year like this. I guess one of the things that really sticks out is I’m thankful and appreciative and proud to be a part of this University and part of this — kind of the Notre Dame nation. You can see that through the fans. The fact that they stay and they support us, keep coming every week, and overall I’m proud to be associated with this University.
John Sullivan: We’re very appreciative of all the fans, especially at a time like this. All the support we can get is appreciated. We’ll try to feed off that support and go out and get a win in the last week.
Q. And finally from me, would you just describe what the alma mater, singing it with the students, just in general what that’s like, what that experience is like?
John Sullivan: I think it’s reflective of kind of the unique nature that this University has. The interaction between athletes here and students here is different than at other universities. We live on campus for three years. For me personally, a lot of my friends are not guys from the team, they’re guys from my dorm and people that I met in classes and whatever. I think when we sing with our students, it’s another way to show that connection, and it’s a way for us to show appreciation for them.
Q. I think you partially answered this question, but in a season with such adversity, you obviously learn things about yourself. Is there something you guys have taken away at the end of the season that you’ve really learned about yourself, on the field, off the field, that you’re going to take with you as you move forward, something that you didn’t know?
Travis Thomas: I think this season has helped me to realize that things happen for a reason, and despite what the outcome may be, just stick in there and really continue to work hard, don’t change who you are despite what may happen around you, to fight to the end. I think that’s something that I’ve become better at this year and something I’ve really learned about myself.
John Carlson: I think I’ll echo what Travis said. It’s easy to work hard and to stay positive and to stay unified as a team when things are going well. When you go through a year like this, I think it reveals the character of your teammates. I think it reveals the character of the coaching staff, and I think it reveals the character of the University as a whole.
As I said already, I’m proud of the way our guys have responded. We haven’t played as well as we wanted to on Saturdays, but we’ve never given up. We haven’t given up on each other. We haven’t thrown in the towel, and we’re not going to do those things. We’re going to fight for these last two weeks and do whatever we can to win games.
John Sullivan: Just like John and Travis said, the main thing that I have learned from this season is no matter what this team faces, adversity, we will never quit. This team is never going to quit, they’re never going to stop trying. Every guy is going to go out there and play and practice their hearts out every single day, every opportunity they’re given. I’m very proud to be a part of a team like that.
Q. Is that the message that you want to relay to the younger guys when you leave here? Is that what you want to pass along to them, the hard work and dedication that the older guys have shown this season?
Travis Thomas: We are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. That name itself is something that you have to reflect in your playing and in your character, to fight to the end, to stick through the bad times. There’s always going to be a light at the end of the tunnel. It may get dim at times, but it will get brighter and will shine and you’ll get to where you want to be.
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