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Notre Dame Football

Styles fashioning path to excellence at Notre Dame

November 12, 2021

The freshman doesn't need the football.

Oh, sure, he's absolutely electric with possession. There are 29- and 40-yard gash-plays against University of Southern California and North Carolina, respectively, that eviscerate any doubt.

But Lorenzo Styles Jr. draws his teammates' admiration, perpetually, from a seemingly innocuous moment on special teams.

There, Styles outruns people.

Everyone, it seems.

“It's incredibly impressive,” says freshman left tackle Joe Alt, like Styles a member of the Irish's most recent signing class and similarly a key cog in their offensive plans now and for the foreseeable future. “I see it the most even just watching film on punt and stuff. Him being out on the edge and just beating guys with speed or just playing guys with speed, I think that's the most impressive thing.

“You're going up against the fastest guys on the team on punt and he's just able to stay in front of people, it's just so impressive.”

Adds Chase Ketterer, “I saw the speed instantly, I'll tell you that. Right when (Styles) got here, you just knew his speed and agility were different. It's crazy to see, honestly, in person. Coming from high school, where there's not too many fast guys, and then coming here where there's so many fast guys. And you still see a guy stand out. I mean that's when you really know.

“It's like him and Chris Tyree, those are the two guys, I'm like, 'He's different in speed.'”

Styles, perhaps, will earn his first career start Saturday night when College Football Playoff's No. 9 team, Notre Dame, visits Atlantic Coast Conference resident Virginia, purveyor of the nation's top offense in total yards and No. 11 team in scoring at 39 points per game.

If the Irish open in a three-wide set, Styles will be in the starting lineup after Avery Davis suffered a season-ending torn anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL) in Notre Dame's 34-6 win last week against Navy.

Sure, Styles has the football pedigree – his father, Lorenzo, a former Ohio State standout with several years in the NFL – but he seeks to harness the competitiveness of his mother, Laverna, after watching her demand excellence from her employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She's just super-competitive, so I feel like that was instilled in me,” says Styles, now with nine receptions for 160 yards and catches of 13 or more yards in four of the Irish's last five games.

“I feel like I've really seen it more so, during COVID, I saw her working from home, and the role she played at her job (working in human resources for the State of Ohio), she demanded a lot from herself. But also out of her employees. So I feel like I really saw it there, but also I've seen it where she always wanted me to be the best in school. Wanted me to be the best on the football field. I could see it because she strived for it, too, with her grades and stuff.”

Laverna Styles simply knows no other approach than to attack life daily and commit to being the best.

She sounds more Jon Gordon “Energy Bus” than H.R. executive and football wife and mother of four.

“It's about competing against yourself,” she tells Irish Sports Daily. “You want to be the best version of yourself. A lot of times in life, you may not get another opportunity to get something or a chance to achieve, and that means pushing yourself.

“School, sports, just don't settle to be average. Compete against yourself. I see that in all our kids as far as school, academics, just trying to get better in life. For me, I think that comes from my dad (Jesse Wright), who has now since passed at age 94. He was a retired Chief Master Sergeant, served 32 years in the United States Air Force. So I was born on a military base in Germany, my mom is German. We were always disciplined, responsible, accountable, growing up, and my dad instilled that in me and my siblings. Don't settle for less than your best in life.”

The mindset is obvious in Lorenzo Styles' approach. Discussing his debut season at college football's most hallowed program, the Pickerington, Ohio, native doesn't put emphasis on either his three-catch, 57-yard performance against USC or his three-catch, 74-yard effort against North Carolina.

Sure, the Styles speed is there on tape; two of college football's most skilled teams with defenders left in Styles' wake.

Rather, the 6-foot-1-1/8-inch, 195-pound rookie also points to special teams and helping clear a path for Notre Dame standout running back Kyren Williams.

Again, plays without the ball in his hand.

“I love special teams,” Styles emphasizes. “The most hype play for me (North Carolina) game was making that block for Kyren.

“It's been a fun role for me.”

Unquestionably, Styles' role on special teams, lining up outside, blistering downfield, hearkens back to his youth. He and his brother, Sonny Styles, a consensus five-star 2023 prospect, are, in part, as fast as they are today from backyard races all those years ago.

“From the time they were younger, and they were getting trained by husband, but they didn't really see it as getting trained because it was always playing games,” Laverna Styles says. “They really didn't know it was sports, and my husband worked with these boys and when they were younger it was to make everything fun. But they were learning.

“They were running with parachutes on their backs, running and racing up hills, playing on travel teams, my husband helped find them a travel team and coach on it. Traveling to compete. Making sure they played multiple sports and got better at everything, because that helps you with football.”

To that end, little today is different for Lorenzo Styles. He's still running, competing; the parachute on his career only now beginning to open.

“I'm nowhere near my ceiling right now,” says Styles, Davis the player he most leans on to navigate his debut season. “I feel like I still have so much potential. I don't know a bunch of technical, fine stuff about playin receiver. Right now, I feel like I can just get the ball in my hands and be pretty explosive. Once I can become a great receiver, I feel like things will be really good.

“For me, I'm going to pick a couple different things I know I need to work on and just attack those.”

Spoken like a mother's son.

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