Joseph Fauria Fulfills His Granfather's Dream

Ashley Fauria never played football, but he loved the game and so did his three sons.

All three of Fauria's boys earned scholarships to Division I programs and his youngest son, Christian, has enjoyed an illustrious NFL career as a tight end with the Seahawks, Patriots, Redskins and most recently the Carolina Panthers.

Still, there was one dream that Ashley Fauria had that none of his sons were able to deliver.

"I've always been a Notre Dame fan," said Ashley, who has a sign declaring his love for the Fighting Irish in his garden. "I always hoped that one of my sons would have the chance to play there, but fate didn't work out that way."

Christian attended Colorado, while his older brother Lance played tight end at Washington and his other brother Quinn received a scholarship to play fullback at Northern Arizona.

But Ashley also had a daughter, Julie.

"I kept up with my brothers and played football with them outside," Julie said. "I broke my ankle trying out for basketball, so I didn't do any sports in high school. I was in the choir and the drama club, but I did play basketball in college."

On Jan. 16, 1990, Julie gave birth to her son Joseph and it was evident right away that he too would be an athlete.

"I remember when Christian was being recruited to Colorado and Joseph had just been born," Julie said. "Coach (Bill) McCartney came to the house and I said, ‘He could be a future Buffalo.' We just knew that he was going to be in sports."

Joseph excelled in basketball and football at an early age, but he grew fast - maybe a little too fast.

"Joseph didn't play tackle football until he was in high school," Julie said. "He was so big that if I would have let him play tackle he would have had to play up two or three age groups and I didn't want to do that."

So Joseph learned the game on the flag football field and did not play with full pads until he got to Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino (Calif.) where his uncles had starred before him.

"I actually had a quarterback dream. But when I got to high school we had a quarterback in Kevin Prince who was pretty good. He must have been pretty good if he beat me out," Joseph joked of Prince, who earned a scholarship to play quarterback at UCLA. "But I'm glad he beat me out."

Joseph moved to tight end and eventually grew into a 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame.

"He's got really soft hands. I can probably count on one hand the number of passes that he dropped in four years," Julie said.

With that size and athletic ability, it didn't take long for college coaches to take notice. Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, and Nebraska offered scholarships and Colorado also gave Joseph the chance to be a Buffalo like his mother had predicted.

But there was one school that Joseph never stopped looking at.

"I've been watching Notre Dame games with my grandfather since I was little," Joseph said. "He had always been pushing me toward Notre Dame and since none of his sons had the chance, when I got it, I had to jump on it."

Joseph gave Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame staff his verbal commitment the day after the Blue and Gold Game in April of 2007.

How ironic that the wish none of Ashley Fauria's sons could grant would ultimately be fulfilled through his only daughter.

"Joseph always wanted to go to Notre Dame and when he saw Rudy that was it. It was done," Julie said. "When he got the chance it was like providence."

Ashley wasn't surprised that his grandson was given the opportunity to play for the Irish.

"Joseph has always had good grades and he's a great athlete, so those two things make him a great candidate for Notre Dame," he said. "I never gave up hope and my wishes and desires came true with Joseph."

Joseph understood what his choice would mean to his grandfather, but there were other reasons behind the decision.

"Everything was perfect for me. I couldn't find anything bad about (Notre Dame)," he said. "The academics are incomparable. The tradition is amazing and the alumni in the Southern California area are great. Overall it was just the perfect place for me."

And in his uncle Christian, Joseph had a great resource for information on Weis.

"It was not really that big of a deal in my final decision, but he told me everything he knew about Weis," Joseph said. "He told me that he's a really good offensive guy, who would be able to utilize my skills."

At his Signing Day press conference in February, Weis recounted the first time he met Joseph.

"I met him, I bet at Super Bowl XXXIX. I coached his uncle Christian… One of my favorite guys," Weis said. "We're at a party, Super Bowl party, and Christian was there with his dad and his nephew, and says, hey, he introduced me to his dad and his nephew, and he says, he's going to play for you some day.

"I'm looking at this kid. At the time he's about 6'7", about 230. I said, he's not going to be playing for me; I'm not going to be coaching in the NFL anymore. He said, he's a freshman. I said, nice to know you. Then it turned out he was a freshman in high school. This is one big muchacho now."

Indeed, Joseph is now the largest of the Fauria clan, but he's not too big to ignore the experiences of those around him. He knew that he'd be able to count on his mother, grandparents and uncles during the process.

"I live in a household with my mom and my grandparents and they're truly the wind beneath my wings," Joseph said. "I wouldn't be where I am without them. When I was stressed out, they were there to help me. They were very supportive and made it enjoyable."

While it Julie's first time going through the procedure as a parent, Ashley and his wife Raimunda were veterans of the recruiting process.

"We'd been through it before, but it's definitely more hectic now," Raimunda said. "It's an exciting time for young people, but it can be very, very stressful. We tried to let him enjoy the experience without being overwhelmed by it."

Raimunda is happy with her grandson's decision, but she does not share her husband's intrinsic love for Notre Dame.

"Nothing against Notre Dame, but I usually root for the team that my kids or grandkids are on," she said. "If he went to play for a team at the moon, I'd be gung ho rooting for the moon."

Joseph's mother couldn't be more proud of her son, but admits that it's going to be hard.

"I always knew that there was something special about Joseph. Going to Notre Dame is an incredible honor even without being an athlete. When I think about it, I'm blown away," Julie said. "But I'm going to miss him so much. He's like my best friend. I'm going to miss him terribly."

Despite his lifelong love of Notre Dame, Ashley has never stepped foot on the campus. That will change next month when he and his wife accompany their daughter as they make the trek to South Bend when Joseph reports in June.

"My dad is going to lose his mind when he gets there," Julie said. "The campus is beautiful and everyone is so nice and welcoming. At one point I asked if I could go to school there."

Come fall Ashley should get his first chance at seeing the Fighting Irish play in Notre Dame Stadium.

"I'll be like the guy in Rudy," he said. "I'll probably say, ‘This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.'"

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