Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau was the talk of the town during the first weeks of preseason camp last August. The Hawaii native not only flashed in multiple practices, but was nearly impossible to block.
Liufau then suffered a broken ankle in midfield which ended his season before the first game of the year.
Fast forward a year and Liufau is back on the pitch with great satisfaction that he can just play football.
“Not being able to play puts things in perspective that things can be taken away from you in an instant,” Liufau said Monday. “Being here every day, I’m grateful to take every rep I can.”
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is limiting Liufau’s reps at the start of camp as staff want to be careful with the budding star and the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder understands the big picture as the Irish are in less than a week. camp.
“Basically, if I had to do six reps, I would do three,” Liufau said. “I strive to be careful in my transition to football.”
Liufau is known for his crushing style of play, but last year allowed him to focus on the mental side of the game as he could only watch games and practices from the touchline.
“I think I definitely studied a lot more,” Liufau explained. “It’s the only thing I could do. I couldn’t do anything physical in training, so I watched and was observant. It helped me a lot to improve this season.”
Irish graduate assistant James Laurinaitis has been with the program for eight months and he’s seen Liufau take several steps forward in his game, which likely leads to the breakout season the mainstay should have had last fall.
“You will feel Marist when the live periods arrive,” said Laurinaitis. “What I like about him is that you have to reign him because we have to be able to practice and protect your teammates. The sky is the limit with his potential.
“He’s long and he’s able to be on the ball, off the ball, play in space and he’s smart. I love his attitude. Today he came up to me and said :” Hey. the ball, let me know.
“It’s a constant commitment to want to be better. Part of that is obviously what happened a year ago with the injury, but it’s about making sure he’s completely locked in the day after. day. He’s been great. The potential with him – that’s a special talent.”
Liufau also points out that he learned a lot from Notre Dame defensive coordinator Al Golden, who coached the Bengals linebackers last year, and Laurinaitis, both of whom bring a wealth of knowledge to his position.
“Picking up every day is so important,” Liufau said. “Going out there and doing what you have to do even when you don’t feel like it was the main thing they taught me. To work harder every day.”
The trip to Columbus is now on the horizon and Liufau admitted there is a sense of urgency around the schedule as they know what lies ahead.
“Every opponent we respect and we prepare the same for everyone else,” Liufau said. “There’s always a big emergency here every week. We’re taking it day by day.”
And on September 3, Liufau will return to the pitch and it’s a day he’s been patiently waiting for.
“I missed running with my teammates,” Liufau said. “I missed being there with them. It was kind of like I wasn’t as involved because I couldn’t train and play.
“I also missed hitting people.”
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