Tom Zbikowski was able to boil the common thread that runs through
dynamic punt returners down to two words.
Unfortunately, one of them is not a family-friendly term, but suffice
to say it has to do with fearlessness.
"You can't be unnerved by anything," said Zbikowski, one of the more
explosive punt returners at Notre Dame in the past decade and a recent
addition to the Indianapolis Colts' roster over the weekend.
"You're a punt returner. Something bad is going to happen eventually,
but you can't let it affect you when it does. You've got to get ready
for the next one. You see college kids, as soon as they drop one, you
know most of them are dropping the next one.
"It's not that I have no fear of embarrassment. I just get over it
quickly. I do that, because I want to get better."
And Zbikowski did get better, without the benefit of significant
experience in high school (he returned just one punt in four years)
and without studying the great ones on film.
What drove the former All-America safety to the fourth-best
single-season average in Irish history (14.0 per return in 2005) was
some unorthodox training methods, a relentless push to put in extra
Notre Dame football: Punt returns: Irish in search of the next Zbikowski
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