Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski has had 78 amateur boxing matches, and because of his commitment to football asked permission of coach Charlie Weis for his last fight in May.
It was a bout last winter that he forgot to mention to Weis, although his teammates know all about it.
Zbikowski drove to his hometown in Chicago with a half-dozen of his Irish teammates, giving them plenty to yell about with a third-round technical knockout. "He’s one of the toughest guys on the team,’’ defensive end Victor Abiamiri said. "He can mix it up.
"I can’t think of anyone on our team more suited for that than Zibby.’’
Zbikowski got about 90 minutes of sleep that night because of a 6 a.m. conditioning practice the next day.
"The next morning was tough,’’ he said.
"There’s too much adrenaline going. I didn’t go to bed until three. I had like an hour nap, then I got up and got run into the ground.’’
Zbikowski’s father was a fight fan, and Zbikowski had his first bout when he was 10 and fought for Team De La Hoya, Oscar de la Hoya’s amateur cadre.
"I tried to watch everyone from Mike Tyson to Marvin Hagler to de la Hoya to (Felix) Trinidad,’’ Zbikowski said.
Zbikowski believes boxing can help on the football field.
"The hand-eye coordination, and definitely the mental toughness,’’ he said. "You can’t call time out halfway through the round to try to get a break. When you face a long drive or it is deep in the fourth quarter and you have to suck it up, that’s when you can tell.’’’
Listed at 208 pounds, Zbikowski fights as a heavyweight, and if plans to play in the NFL do not materialize he would like to continue in the ring.
"I’ll always be training. I’ll try to get a fight whenever I can,’’ he said.
Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) are the only Division 1-A teams to have a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.
Irish junior quarterback Brady Quinn set a school season record with 3,633 passing yards while sophomore running back Darius Walker has rushed for 1,106 yards, becoming the seventh player in school history to reach 1,000.
Junior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija (1,190) and senior Maurice Stovall (1,023) reached the 1,000-yard mark in the final regular-season game, a 38-31 victory over Stanford.