Notre Dame: ‘Amazing' Malik Zaire remains a steady presence


Brian Kelly has seen it happen plenty of times over the course of his quarter-century as a head football coach: A player gets injured, and during the recovery process, struggles to be engaged with his healthy teammates. It’s only natural — many injured players say the toughest part of their recovery process is watching games and wondering what they could to in either a winning or losing effort.

Redshirt junior quarterback Malik Zaire, though, has bucked that trend over the three-and-a-half months since he fractured his ankle in the third quarter of Notre Dame’s Sept. 12 win at Virginia. 

For example, DeShone Kizer, the redshirt freshman who replaced Zaire and rose to national prominence during Notre Dame’s 10-2 regular season, credited the sidelined lefty with pointing out a hole in Temple’s cover-two defense that ultimately led to Kizer throwing a game-winning touchdown to Will Fuller on Halloween in Philadelphia.

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Zaire has been a limited participant in Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl practices, taking part in some seven-on-seven and one-on-one reps while not taking contact. He’s ahead of schedule, and while there’s never been a chance of him playing on New Year’s Day, it’s a good spot in which to be for a guy who will have to compete to win his job back during spring and preseason practice. 

But in the interim, Kelly said Zaire will continue to be a positive voice on the sideline and in meeting rooms as Notre Dame eyes its most significant postseason win in over two decades. 

“He hasn’t separated at any time from the club,” Kelly said. “It’s been as if he had an ankle sprain, not a fracture/dislocation. So quite contrary to any other player that I’ve had, he’s maintained that close association with everything that we do. He doesn’t miss a meeting. I’m in there every day, he has not missed one quarterback meeting, he’s at every practice. 

“… He’s probably 60 percent (health-wise). He can’t load on his ankle right now but he’s out there still throwing the football. Pretty amazing young man.”

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