Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Armstrong's Perspective Keeps Him Focused

November 6, 2019
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It only hurt when Jafar Armstrong tried to run.

Or jog.

Or, more of less, get out of bed.

Anything that required the body’s core muscle movement.

So, anything. Nothing, after one series at Louisville in Notre Dame’s season-opener, came easily for Armstrong.

“When you’re first going through it, you’re not trying to do … you’re not trying to put pressure on it much,” said Armstrong. “You try to manage just walking on it, you’re not trying to jog and you’re just trying to make sure the muscle can heal back. Really just working on your core and your groin and make sure that strengthens back up so that when you do come back, you can exert the amount of pressure that you feel is necessary to move.”

Notre Dame’s running back never flinched. Not in his belief he would return; not in his unique perspective that all would be OK.

“You never feel sorry for yourself, because these aren’t big problems,” Armstrong said. “You know, I’m hurt, but I’m still playing football for Notre Dame. A lot worse could be going on, there’s a lot of things in the world that are going wrong for people. But me not being able to play football, that’s not going to bring me down. I know I can bounce back from that. You know the best part is just staying confident and trusting trainers and knowing it comes with the sport you play.

“You wanna be out there and play, but you can’t allow your frustration to dictate how you feel and have that cause your confidence to shift or your mood to go down. You’ve just got to look at the bright side all the time because like I said, everyone goes through their own things in life, so just knowing how to look on the bright side or keep pushing, that shows what kind of man you are when you have to face adversity over and over again. Shows how you respond to things.”

Armstrong responded to both injury and adversity in kind last weekend, as Notre Dame needed almost all 60 minutes to thwart upset-minded Virginia Tech, 21-20.

One moment, Armstrong was taking a deftly executed screen pass, cascading over Hokies’ defenders and landing near the goal line. Another touchdown and a 21-7 halftime lead seemed imminent.

Reality? Adversity. Armstrong was hit squarely on the goal line, the football ballooned into the air and Tech’s Divine Deablo raced 98 yards for a tying score.

The Hokies eventually would build a 20-14 lead and stick Notre Dame first on a 99- and then an 87-yard field.

The Irish responded with a 17-play drive that yielded no points; they won the game with an 18-play drive that did the job. Armstrong played a major role throughout every offensive possession.

“We saw some really good things (Saturday) with Jafar Armstrong back in for the first time,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. “And, yeah, you got to go back to him. He's going to mean too much to our offense. We're out, Tony Jones is out, he's a veteran presence for us that would settle us down, he wasn't in there. Of course, you lose your captain (Robert Hainsey) early on in the game, he wasn't there. But they overcame it and that's, to me, I couldn't be more happy for those guys.”

Armstrong found his closest support system within the group of guys he most battles for touches: fellow running backs.

“Someone who I leaned on were the teammates, you know the running back group we’re a brotherhood,” he said. “Tony’s a great guy, Avery (Davis), C’Bo (Flemister), Jahmir (Jones), Kyren (Williams), Cam (Ekanayake), all of them. Just spent more time with them, spent more time in the film room trying to get the details right.

“My football IQ; there are a lot of things I learned that because so much is happening on the field that you can’t see, when you have time back to go and see a full game, see the good things Tony’s doing, and learn from him, and see the good things that ’Mir and C’Bo were doing, it just takes time.”

 
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