When the NFL Scouting Combine opens in just under three weeks, plenty of former Notre Dame players will get an opportunity to impress a massive gathering of pro scouts, coaches and executives.
Linebacker Dan Fox, though, won't be one of them. Arguably the MVP of Notre Dame's defense in 2013, Fox didn't receive an invite to the Combine — though he's using that rebuff as motivation.
"I know there's a record number of juniors and all the things that went into it, but I still feel like I should've been invited," Fox said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I'm definitely going to have that chip on my shoulder."
Fox — an experienced Will inside linebacker who switched to Mike (Manti Te'o's position) in 2013 — finished his career at Notre Dame strong, recording 37 tackles in his final four games with two tackles for a loss and one sack. That came after some early-season struggles that saw him dropped from Notre Dame's starting lineup, which Fox said largely were the product of a banged-up knee.
"It bothered my so much, there were games where I wasn't able to run full speed," Fox said.
He injured his knee on the third play of Notre Dame's season opener against Temple, and while it was minor it was enough to throw him off for a stretch. That was when Jarrett Grace took over as Notre Dame's starting Mike linebacker, meaning Fox was set to lose out on 20 or so snaps per game in his final college season.
But when Grace broke his leg Oct. 5 against Arizona State, Fox stepped back in and began his surge. He recovered a fumble and had a game-clinching pick six in what turned out to be Notre Dame's best win of last season, and from there his knee felt better and his play improved.
Fox finished 2013 with a team-leading 95 tackles, though it's been that late-season momentum that's helped push him while training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., even if the Combine is off the table.
But Fox has been in this position before. While he came to Notre Dame a four-star recruit, he had to impress a new coaching staff after redshirting the final year of the Charlie Weis regime in 2009. And Fox wound up playing in all 52 of Notre Dame's games from 2010-2013.
He'll get his chance to impress scouts during Notre Dame's pro day this spring, and is holding out hope he'll be picked in May's NFL Draft.
But Fox is confident that as long as he gets a chance at the next level, he'll be able to make the most of it.
"It's something I'm used to," Fox said. "It's something I've grown accustomed to. It's just that feeling of never being satisfied and there's always going to be competition, and that's something I thrive in."