Jaylon Smith isn’t the only Notre Dame football player sporting a new number this weekend. Senior Luke Massa is wearing #78 today in honor of his high school teammate Matt James.
For those who may have forgotten or were unaware, Matt James was a highly touted offensive lineman in Brian Kelly’s first recruiting class at Notre Dame who tragically lost his life in a spring break accident before ever enrolling at Notre Dame.
James was actually the crown jewel in Brian Kelly’s first class as the highest rated player according to most recruiting services – even higher than Louis Nix was. Unfortunately James was never able to fulfill his potential like the rest of his classmates in that first recruiting class.
During the telecast of today’s game against BYU, NBC reported that Massa refers to James as his “280 lbs angel on his shoulder” and credited James for the reason he never transferred from Notre Dame despite hardly playing throughout his career after being a touted quarterback recruit out of high school as well.
Massa has not played much over the last four years after moving to wide receiver a few years back when it became clear that he would not see much time at quarterback for the Irish. Massa has been the holder on field goals and extra points this season, however, and it would be great if the Irish are somehow able to get him on the field for a snap today.
Jaylon Smith is also wearing a new number today putting his normal #9 on the shelf for a week to wear Danny Spond’s #13. Spond has been instrumental in the development of Smith this year after being forced into early retirement due to problems with migraines. NBC also showed a very inspirational clip of Spond running onto the field in full pads prior to kickoff – a clip I hope FIDM will post to the WatchND channel.