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Tyrone Willingham And The Irish Welcome Back A Familiar Face

Aug. 12, 2003

by Lisa Mushett

Notre Dame held its first full practice today on the fields west of the Hammes Bookstore and welcomed back a familiar face in senior running back Julius Jones. Jones, who missed all of the 2002 season, is back and ready to go for the Irish in ’03 and is working hard to reestablish himself in the Irish rotation.

The native of Big Stone Gap, Va., has rushed for 1,750 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Irish. He also is one of the best kick returners in Notre Dame history as he has recorded 1,435 yards and is only 233 yards away from breaking former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown’s career mark of 1,613 yards. But Jones will have to continue to work hard in finding his role on the Irish roster.

“Julius’ role is yet to be defined,” head coach Tyrone Willingham says.

“We are excited to have Julius back because there are some outstanding things he has done for the program in the past and some things he can add again. We will see over the next couple of weeks exactly what his role will be this season.”

While away from the program, Jones and his brother, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Thomas, worked out with a personal trainer and Julius came to camp in the best shape of his career.

“Julius looks good and seems to be moving well,” Willingham says.

“But I also think all of our backs (Ryan Grant, Jeff Jenkins, Marcus Wilson) look good and are moving well. We hope to see big things from all of them.”

Big things include possibly vaulting into a leadership role with the Irish this season. Does Willingham see Jones as one of those leaders for the Irish?

“There are other steps he needs to take before he can assume a leadership position. Leadership is something that is earned. It is not something that you walk in the door and it is given to you. In the game of football, and in life, in is earned by your actions and the consistency in your actions. You can do some great things to put yourself in that position, but it still takes time.”

The one thing that really has Willingham smiling though is Jones’ attitude this fall. After only playing a spring season under Willingham, both player and coach are still getting to know each other and are using training camp to do just that.

“Julius’ attitude is good. He has done the things he needed to do over the past year to put himself back at Notre Dame and has done well in his first two days of camp,” Willingham says.

As the Irish welcome back Jones and the other 104 men on the 2003 roster, it should be an exciting fall season as the Irish prepare for their Sept. 6 opener against Washington State at Notre Dame Stadium.

Note: Visit tomorrow morning for an interview with speedy freshman wide receiver Chinedum Ndukwe and how his first practice went with the Irish.