Irish Football Banquet Recap

Charlie Weis

In a season full of doubts for the Notre Dame football team, there was no doubt Friday night at the Irish banquet about who would receive the Most Valuable Player Award. Fifth-year senior Trevor Laws had one of the best years for a defensive player in Notre Dame history. It was only fitting that the defensive end's accomplishments were rewarded with the highest honor.

Laws won the 2007 Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award Friday night at the Irish football banquet, capping a 2007 season that saw the fifth-year senior total 112 tackles. It's the second most ever for a Notre Dame front four lineman in a single year. Laws also recorded eight tackles, seven quarterback hurries, four sacks and three blocked field goals.

Laws took home the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well. The fifth-year senior currently has a 3.667 GPA in a graduate studies program. Laws graduated in May 2007 with a degree in marketing and sociology. The defensive end is a winner on and off the field and was honored as such on Friday night.

"Wow, what an honor," Laws said. "It's been a wild year. I decided to come back for a fifth-season. From conditioning in the off-season through spring camp, I kept my body in shape. We've been through a lot this year. We've been through a lot as seniors. I want to say thank you to all my teammates and I made a lot of great relationships on this team."

The guest speaker of the night was Aaron Taylor, a 1994 graduate of Notre Dame. Taylor came to Notre Dame from De La Salle High School in Concord, California and was one of the best offensive linemen the Irish have had in the past 25 years. Taylor, playing under Lou Holtz, was a consensus All-American in 1992 and won the Lombardi Award in 1993 while being a finalist for the Outland Trophy in the same year. Taylor went on to play five years in the NFL, where he was part of the 1997 Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl Champions team. Taylor had a message to the all members of the team.

"To the seniors, I want to say thank you for what you have done," Taylor said. "I know the pressure and burden and what it takes to be a senior football player in a leadership role at this university. You represent us well. To the underclassmen, take a look around you. I see smiles but I've sat in that chair and it wasn't that long ago that I was there. When you remember this place, it'll be those same smiling faces that you'll remember. It won't be about 3-9. It'll be about those relationships and the stories and what you do with those guys.

"One more thing: you're a talented group. You guys, as underclassmen, are enough. The answer to get Notre Dame back on track is you. You have what it takes."

Head coach Charlie Weis spoke after Taylor. Weis, who was hosting over a dozen recruits at the banquet tonight, is focused on putting the finishing touches on recruiting before making any decisions about possible coaching changes. But the Notre Dame head coach already has his players focused on San Diego State and 2008. Kickoff for the opener is 273 days away.

"I walked into our team meeting (last Friday) with all the returning players," Weis said. "We talked about a number of things and moving forward. One of the things we talked was how the season ended in relation to how the season began and moving forward. In this conversation, no one left the room with any uncertainty that we took a couple of baby steps at the end of the year but far from anywhere close where Notre Dame University should and expects to be."

Weis didn't want to reflect back on the 3-9 year. The Irish head coach is determined to prove there will be no repeat next season.

"Your season just started on Monday," Weis said to his players in attendance. "If you want to do something about it, it all starts in the weight room. For the next of months, your season has already started."

John Carlson was a two-time award winner on Friday, picking up the Westwood One/State Farm Student Athlete of the Year honor and was the recipient of the Nick Pietrosante Award, given to the student-athlete who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, dedication and pride of the late Notre Dame All-American. Carlson caught 40 balls for 372 yards and three touchdowns this season while holding down a 3.667 GPA in a graduate studies program.

"It's a tremendous honor to receive this award," Carlson said. "Especially this year, because everyone, players, coaches, support staff, is deserving of this award. Things didn't go the way we wanted them to go. But we came to work everyday. We never gave up on each other. The players didn't give up on the coaches and vice versa."

Other award winners on Friday night included John Sullivan and Pat Kuntz. Sullivan, who missed the last two games with an injury, won the Guardian of the Year Award as the top offensive lineman. Before the injury, the fifth-year center started 31 straight games. Kuntz, who totaled 42 tackles and a team-high nine pass break-ups in 2007, took home the Lineman of the Year Award by the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation.

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