April 7, 2004
by Katie Stuhldreher
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Ask any football player or coach and they will tell you that learning what it takes to be a starter and big playmaker for a Division I college football program takes time – and lots of it. But ask freshman defensive end Victor Abiamiri and he’ll tell you that some guys like to jump right in. After an impressive first season with appearances in 10 games and four starts, Abiamiri continues to work hard in spring practice to improve his game for next season.
Abiamiri picked up football in high school, following after his two older brothers, Rob and Paschal, who currently play for Maryland. The football genes in the Abiamiri family certainly did not skip over Abiamiri as he was one of the top defensive end recruits in the nation by his senior year. Playing at The Gilman School in Baltimore, Abiamiri helped his team to a 10-0 record his senior year with 52 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles, and one interception.
Although he was heavily recruited by other schools, Abiamiri chose Notre Dame for its combination of strong academics and athletics.
“I was really impressed with the academic and athletic programs at Notre Dame,” he said. “Once you leave here, you are set for life. I also love the tradition at Notre Dame, knowing that I am a part of something greater than just myself or this team. Many people dream about getting to come here and I am so lucky to experience it.”
No doubt, Notre Dame is lucky to have Abiamiri as well. In his 10 games last season, he recorded 18 tackles and three tackles for loss. Abiamiri stepped in when Justin Tuck was injured early in the season to record a career-high seven tackles in his first start against Michigan State. Abiamiri is one of only three true freshmen to have started on the Notre Dame defensive line in the past decade, and he earned honorable mention freshman All-America team honors for his performance last season.
“At times there was lot of pressure, starting as a freshman,” he admitted. “But I got used to it as the season went on. My coaches were there helping me every step of the way and by the end of the season, I felt like one of the guys. I was in my comfort zone.
“Justin Tuck and Kyle Budinscak helped me a lot last season. They would critique me and teach me how to play. Along with Cedric Hilliard and Darrell Campbell, those guys taught me how the Notre Dame defensive line plays,” he added.
Abiamiri is constantly improving even more during spring practice as he is working on his technique and consistency. His progress is evident to the rest of the team and coaches.
“I just think Victor, when he arrived, set himself apart in terms of what he could provide physically, because that’s the first leap that you have to have,” Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham said. “The second leap is becoming comfortable mentally with what’s going on. And I think he has acclimated himself very well.”
Abiamiri said that he wasn’t completely satisfied with his performance last season and continues to learn more with each day of training.
“I’m just out there trying to give my best effort on every play, which is the best thing that anyone can contribute,” he said. “I want a national championship next season and I want to be the best that I can be both on and off the field.”
Abiamiri expressed that his enthusiasm is reflective of a general attitude of excitement on the team this spring that will hopefully spill over onto the field next season.
“We are one year more mature and we know what it takes to win football games,” he commented with a confident grin.
And the Irish have what it takes to do just that. They have a freshman with the will-power, heart, intensity, and maturity of a senior. Or better yet, of a champion.
— ND —