Collinsworth makes a name for himself as a Notre Dame captain

Collinsworth makes a name for himself as a Notre Dame captain
August 28, 2014, 2:15 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Nearly five years ago, Austin and Cris Collinsworth took a recruiting trip to Notre Dame. The Irish wanted Austin, but the three-star safety from Kentucky was still deciding if he wanted to play ball in South Bend.

The elder Collinsworth -- a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and current NBC Sunday Night Football announcer -- walked down the tunnel toward the field at Notre Dame Stadium with his son, who asked him "What do you think?"

"And I wanted to say 'What do I think? What are you, nuts? This is Notre Dame, the greatest college players in the history of the world have walked through this tunnel out on to the field, and this is where you should go and this is awesome,' " Cris Collinsworth recalled. "But I said 'I don't know, Austin, what do you think?'"

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Austin Collinsworth wound up choosing Notre Dame, and four years later he's a team captain.

Collinsworth's path to get to this point hasn't been easy. He watched Notre Dame's 2012 run to the BCS Championship from the sidelines, as shoulder and back surgeries kept him out his junior year. Two years ago, Collinsworth could barely imagine getting back on the field, let alone getting a 'C' on his jersey.

"Those were some real dark times in my life," Collinsworth said. "The shoulder and the back compounding on top of that, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to come back and play football to be honest."

But Collinsworth returned to the field in 2013 and started 11 games at safety, making 43 tackles and intercepting a team-high three passes. On a defense loaded with young and inexperienced players, Collinsworth's role as a quasi-quarterback is essential -- it's largely his job to get his teammates correctly positioned on the fly.

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Coach Brian Kelly said Collinsworth is a max-effort guy, which certainly provides a good example for all the freshmen and sophomores sliding into important roles at the college level for the first time in their careers.

"We'll be Scotch taping him together because he plays so ferociously," Kelly said. "Austin, he throws his body out there 100 miles an hour at everything. He doesn't play half speed at anything."

Collinsworth was named a captain about a month after his sister, Ashley, was tabbed as captain of Harvard's track team. That's led Cris Collinsworth to "dad brag" quite a bit and tease Austin that his captaincy was "no big deal, you're just the second one in the family and all that kind of stuff."

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The Collinsworths celebrated the 'C' on Austin's jersey with his grandparents on their 53rd wedding anniversary. Eventually, they got Austin on speakerphone and congratulated him on the honor, but they didn't get in contact with him immediately -- because he was watching film and getting prepped for Saturday's season opener against Rice.

"I had to take care of business first," Collinsworth said.