FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- T.J. Jones often talked with his father, Andre, about continuing the family's championship lineage at Notre Dame. Andre Jones, an outside linebacker on Notre Dame's 1988 title team, passed away in 2011 after suffering a brain aneurysm.
"It's something me and my dad both talked about, and how cool it would be if we both played in the National Championship wearing the same number at the same school," Jones said Friday.
There have been plenty of moments over Notre Dame's 2012 season Jones wished he could've shared with his late father, most notably his game-winning touchdown catch against Stanford. And amid the delirious celebration in Los Angeles after Notre Dame beat USC, Jones wished he could've talked with his father about what was to come in January.
"I wish I could've called him and I guess talk for hours about what we were going to do, how crazy it was that we're both going to be in the National Championship and really celebrate those moments with him," Jones said.
Jones has rarely spoken about his father's death, save for one day last year. It's an understandably sensitive issue, although he was prepared for questions about it from the throngs of media circulating through the Harbor Beach Marriott on Friday. But to his credit, he handled the questions on a difficult topic with maturity.
"I feel he's here with me every day," Jones explained. "I feel like he's watching over me, he's watching over Notre Dame and my family as well."
Irish add Redfield to nation's top recruiting class
Notre Dame ascended to the top of Rivals.com's class of 2013 recruiting rankings by securing the commitment of five-star safety Max Redfield, who announced his decision Friday night at the Under Armour All-American Bowl in Tampa. The Mission Viejo, Calif., native had been committed to USC until visiting Notre Dame three weeks ago, after which he decommitted.
Redfield is the third five-star player to commit to Notre Dame for its 2013 recruiting class, joining running back Greg Bryant and linebacker Jaylon Smith. The safety said Notre Dame's success played a major role in his commitment -- and it's probably fair to say USC's 7-6 season, in which they became the first preseason No. 1 to fall out of the AP top 25 since 1964, was a factor as well.
Dispatches from practice
Members of the media were allowed to view 15 minutes of Notre Dame's practice Friday -- the final practice viewing before Monday's game -- and saw a few noteworthy plays as the Irish try to find the end zone more often.
Notre Dame ran a fake field goal and offered a few wildcat and different zone readoption looks near the goal line, signaling the team is trying some new looks to improve one of the worst red zone touchdown rates in the nation. We may not see these exact plays on Monday -- it'd be a shock if the Irish ran a fake field goal -- but the overarching theme here is that, with 43 days to prepare, Notre Dame's going to try some different stuff by the goal line.
"We needed a good day today. It was hotter today and we pushed our guys. I thought that they responded very well," coach Brian Kelly said. "We only went an hour and fifteen minutes today. Im pleased with back-to-back days where we got a lot of work done. Were ready to play. We have one more day tomorrow and well clean some things up and some situational and well get ready to play Alabama in a great game."
Alabama's Square holds connection to Notre Dame
A few players on Notre Dame and Alabama were recruited by both schools, with George Atkinson III and Jones being two on the Irish side. Damion Square is on the flip side of that, choosing Alabama over Notre Dame as a three-star defensive end out of Houston in the class of 2008.
One of Square's relatives went to Notre Dame, and he's taken a visit to South Bend for a game.
"It's a great place with great tradition similar to Alabama," Square said. "At the time Charlie Weis was the coach, and they had a great program going on at the university, I just felt like Alabama was a better fit for me. But Notre Dame is a great place. They have a lot of pride in what they're trying to do up there, and they've been trying to get to this point for a while, and they're here, and I'm pretty sure that they're going to try to come and take advantage of this opportunity."