Oct. 16, 2003
By Katie Stuhldreher
At the first pep rally of the year, senior offensive tackle Jim Molinaro addressed head coach Tyrone Willingham, his teammates and the rest of the 11,000 people in the Joyce Center saying, “When we’re fourth and one, and you are making the decision of whether or not to go for it, I want you to run the ball behind me.”
Molinaro has been the voice of confidence, determination, and enthusiasm for the Irish this season. He is one of the three offensive linemen with game-time experience from last year and serves as a vital leader for the relatively new Irish offense.
Molinaro came to Notre Dame as a defensive lineman and made the transition to offensive tackle after his sophomore season.
“The transition to the other side of the line of scrimmage was challenging, but I’m definitely more comfortable in the offensive line,” Molinaro said.
Molinaro exhibited a strong performance last season as he started the last three games at offensive tackle when a variety of injuries hit the line.
“Getting to start for the Irish was a tremendous honor. I got the opportunity to see what it feels like to start,” said Molinaro.
This season, Molinaro is a permanent starter and one of the most experienced players on the offensive line. He has played every offensive down this season, playing over 135 minutes this season. He also has played an integral leadership role in helping many of the less experienced players learn how to play the line including right tackle Ryan Harris, who against Pittsburgh became only the third true freshman to start for the Irish on the offensive line since 1973 (Mike Rosenthal and Brad Williams were the other two).
“I try to help the new guys in practice with their footwork and technique. I do my best to set a good example,” added Molinaro.
Molinaro commented that he feels his greatest contribution to the Irish offense is his work ethic. He constantly pushes himself and his teammates in practice and games. The result has been evident as the offensive line has improved each game thus far in 2003 and was an integral reason that senior Julius Jones set the Notre Dame single-game rushing record against Pittsburgh last weekend with 262 yards on only 24 carries.
“My goal this season is to win every game and improve with every game.”
This weekend will present the Irish with one of the biggest challenges of the season as they take on long-time rival USC. The Irish are looking to rebound from last season’s USC tilt in which the Trojans handed Notre Dame a stunning 44-13 loss on national television.
“The USC game last year was a tough game. It really hurt,” Molinaro said.
“This is one of our biggest games and we just need to attack them and take it to them.”
Molinaro and the rest of the Irish offense have been practicing hard over the past few weeks to prepare both mentally and physically for this weekend’s intense match-up, knowing that a win Saturday could put the team back on track for a great season.
“Our offense has come a long way this season. We can still improve in a lot of aspects, but we just have to take it one game at a time,” Molinaro added confidently.
“We still have a lot of games left and a lot to show this country.”
Molinaro will lead the offensive line against fourth-ranked USC in this highly anticipated match-up on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 1:30 PM EST.