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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame RB Audric Estime Focused on Finishing 2023 Strong

November 15, 2023
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Notre Dame hasn’t played a game since the disappointing loss at Clemson to open November, but the Irish did hit the practice field last week to the bad taste out of their mouth. 

The program has moved on and the focus is solely on Saturday’s senior day matchup with Wake Forest. 

“We were like we’ve got to dump Clemson,” Notre Dame running back Audric Estime said of the bye week. “We were on a two-week sprint and that’s sprint’s over. Now we’re on another two-week sprint.

“Coach (Marcus) Freeman always (preaches) one week, one life. that’s what we’re doing. That’s been our message. Clemson was in the past. Now our new opponent is Wake Forest and all of our energy and focus goes towards them.” 

And yes, Estime felt the benefits of having a rare second bye week as he enters this weekend with 988 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. 

“I think it was good for us honestly,” Estime said. “It’s definitely hard to get out of the groove. Sometimes you play and you just want to play straightforward, but like you’ve got to take step outside and look at the benefits for you.

“Football is a physical sport and to recover from physical sports, you need some time and that’s what the byes have been for us to recover physically and mentally because to play eight straight weeks is tough but a team like us, we’re willing to do it. But if you have byes, you want to take advantage of those.” 

Saturday’s contest will also be a chance for the Irish to completely put the Clemson game behind them and finish the fall on a strong note. 

Estime and his teammates dove into the good and bad from the trip to Clemson and Wake Forest will be an opportunity to show growth. 

“It’s the game we live,” Estime explained. “You’re not going to be perfect but you’ve got to aim for perfection. That Clemson game, we were far from perfect. We wish we had a couple ones we could have gotten back but that’s the game of football.

“You want some things back but you can’t. You’ve got another opportunity the week after to follow up on that and that’s how we’re taking this Wake Forest game. It’s an opportunity to make up the mistakes from Clemson.” 

While Estime has been the focal point of the Irish offense this season, all eyes will soon be on his upcoming decision as he’ll have the chance to enter the 2024 NFL Draft sooner than later.

The New Jersey native will have put together back-to-back seasons of 900+ rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns once the 2023 season wraps up.

It’s almost a forgone conclusion Saturday will be Estime’s last game inside Notre Dame Stadium given the wear and tear on the running back position. 

Estime and Freeman had conversations about his future during the bye week, but the Notre Dame star wasn’t giving any hints on his future this week. 

“No, I haven’t made a decision yet,” stated Estime. “That’s still something that’s ongoing with my family, my coaches, I’m just focused on this game ahead of us.” 

If Saturday is Estime’s last game in South Bend, he hasn’t given too much thought about it. 

“That’s something I’m still thinking about with my family,” Estime explained. “We’re just thinking how this is the last game of our season here. I’m not really thinking about down the line or next year. I’m just focusing on this game and sending the seniors off right.” 

Honoring those seniors is important for Estime as he grew alongside with them, but also learned from their lead over the last three years. 

“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” Estime said. “It’s going to be a fun time. Those guys were led by the strong and those guys are our strong guys. They’ve been here four, five, even six years. So honestly, it’s such a surreal moment. You play so many games in that stadium and that’s their last so we are definitely going to try to go out with a bang and put it all on the line for those seniors.” 

The 5-foot-11, 227-pounder has not only left a lasting mark on the field in 2023, but also in the running back room. Notre Dame’s younger backs have been able to see how Estime prepares along with the focus it takes to be one of the nation’s premier backs and that’s priceless. 

“Coach Deland does a great job leading us,” explained Estime. “I feel like I’ve done a really good job of being the leader of this group. It’s how you approach practice, approach a game, everything you do is a reflection of the room.

“So even if I’m not in the facility or I’m not near this campus, I try to lead as an example. I try to come and work hard every day because I know those young guys are out here looking for me and I just keep on raising the level and raising the standard for these guys. They’re doing a really good job and I’m just excited for their future.” 

That message and outlook have been communicated to recruits as Estime decommitted from Michigan State in favor of the Irish during his recruiting process. 

“Just trust your heart,” Estime said of his message to recruits. “If your heart tells you to come to this place, it’s telling you that for a reason. If you want to hear the experience from me, I feel like this place literally gave me everything I needed when it comes to academics, the support outside of football and the support for football.

“Everyone’s goal is to make it from the NFL, so I feel like Notre Dame provides that on a high level. But it also provides more than that. It provides the tools to have a successful life when football is over and when your NFL career is over. That’s definitely my message to those kids.” 

Estime also made it clear he’s cherished every game at Notre Dame Stadium during his career and will take it all in this weekend if it is in fact his last game running out of the historic tunnel. 

“It just means a lot,” said Estime. “I’m an older guy now, a veteran. There is an option for this to be my last game. So it’s a surreal moment, all the hard work is finally paying off. It shows how fast time goes from coming in as a freshman, my first game in Notre Dame Stadium, I’m just amazed and thought I’m going to get this every week now.

“Coming to the position I’m in now where this could be my last game here, I’m just going to take in every single moment of it from running out of the tunnel to scoring touchdowns to finishing in the fourth quarter.”

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