Oct. 9, 2003
By Katie Stuhldreher
Junior Irish fullback Rashon Powers-Neal is, in a word, tough: tough to tackle, tough to block and tough to stop. During his Notre Dame career, Powers-Neal has made a strong contribution to the Irish offense in the backfield playing both tailback and fullback, as well as being a crucial part of the special teams. This utility man looks to capitalize on his speed, agility and power in his new role as starting fullback.
At fullback this season, Powers-Neal has had to fill the shoes of former Irish veterans Tom Lopienski, Mike McNair and Chris Yura, who were an intergral part of the Irish offense the last five years. It has been a slow go so far for Powers-Neal as he has only one carry for two yards and two receptions for five yards in ’03.
“It’s been tough taking over this position, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’m beginning to understand what those guys did to execute at fullback,” Powers-Neal said.
A great deal of expectation accompanies a transition into a starting role on the Irish offense. Powers-Neal is prepared to deal with this as he has set specific personal goals at the beginning of the season.
“I just look to improve my skills as a player, to win games and to have fun.”
Powers-Neal distinguished himself as one of the leaders of the relatively inexperienced Irish offense this season through his ability to identify areas of needed improvement and to keep morale high.
“I think the biggest strength of our offense is the heart that we put into every game. We never stop competing. Regardless of how this season turns out, we still have a lot of fight,” the native of St. Paul, Minn., and Cretin-Derham High School says.
During the bye week, the Irish worked harder than ever to prepare for a challenging match-up against Pittsburgh.
Powers-Neal explained, “We practiced hard this week. We worked on new things as well as on the basics. This weekend we just have to go out there and play Notre Dame football.”
Although Powers-Neal has a very confident outlook for the remainder of the season, he recognizes that the Irish offense still has a lot of work to do.
“We are still working on getting our unity down. We all need to get on the same page and work together.”
Powers-Neal embodies that spirit of perseverance and commitment that keeps the Notre Dame football program strong as he reminds fans and competitors there is a lot of football still to play and reassures everyone the Irish continue to work hard and will not give up.
“We’re going to come back after the bye week and play hard. The season’s not over yet.”
Rashon Powers-Neal and the rest of the Fighting Irish battle Pittsburgh this Saturday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m. eastern daylight time (5 p.m. South Bend time.). The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.