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Larry's Legends: "X" marks the Notre Dame legacy for Xavier Murphy

CultureNotre Dame Fighting IrishCollege SportsFootballUniversity of Notre Dame

Change doesn't come easy to many. To some it doesn't come at all.

The way things are and the way someone is often doesn't differentiate from one era of someones life to another, from one place to another.

Traditions, you see, die hard among those who hold them dear. Call it a textbook description of Xavier Murphy of Anderson, who appreciated established practices from his hometown to his collegiate home.

"That's what Xav loved, he loved tradition," said his mother Marcia Murphy of the University of Notre Dame, where Xavier called home from 2007 to 2011.

The lack of co-ed dorms. The "Here Come To Irish" banner on the side of his residence at Zahm Hall. The football team's walking through campus to the stadium. Toss in the Golden Dome, "Touchdown Jesus",  Notre Dame Stadium, and South Bend had the set-in-stone tradition that called to Xavier even in his youth.

"It seems like eight out of ten pictures, even when he was a little boy he's got Notre Dame on," said Maricia of Xavier. "He just loved Notre Dame."

But with the person and the place where things simply don't change came an instance where alteration was both for the good along with necessary.

Oddly enough, it was death to where a few traditions died hard-some permenantly and some tributes in the temporary.

"He would have thought it was really cool," said Marcia Murphy of the thousands of students who had their arms raised above their heads, crossed to form an "X" during Notre Dame's football game with Navy on October 29th.

It was apart of the "Raise An X For X Campaign" that was started when Xavier was diagnosed with Leukemia on September 13th. While completing some coursework, Murphy returned to the football team in 2011 as an intern after serving as head manager a season earlier.

"He cared so much about this team," said Irish linebacker Darius Fleming of Murphy. "He was there ever day bringing a good atmosphere to practice and the locker room."

He was doing so when Notre Dame lost at Michigan on September 10th, when a pain crept into his back and made it necessary for a visit to the hospital.

"The doctor got the blood test back that evening and actually went to the house to the emergency room-the Notre Dame doctor-and that's where we saw his white blood cell count was very, very high and was diagnosed with Lukemia," said Marcia of the diagnosis-which sprung his former hallmates into action.

In the hopes of raising money for the Murphy family, Zahm Hall immediately began plans to create a tribute at a football game to an ailing Xavier.

"The "X" thing sort of originated because it is a symbol of our dorm but Xavier's nickname was also Xav or X already so we thought it would be a very appropriate tradition," said Zahm Hall resident Brandon Corsones-thought they would have to break a current university routine to do it.

During the Navy game when the Celtic Chant was played by the Notre Dame band, the hope was that students would form an "X" instead of the Leprechaun fist pumps that had been done by the students.

Oddly enough, the "X" was considered the original tradition for the chant by Zahm Hall and members would perform that instead of fist pumps at games-sometime to the ire of the rest of the student body.

"It was just sort of a protest against a new cheer and sort of the idea of breaking a tradition, because our guys wanted to keep with the original," said Zahm Hall rector Corry Colonna-but selling the "X" would be much easier this time.

Word was spread by selling red t-shirts and bandanas with the "Raise An X For X" across the front with pictures of students throwing up the "X" on the front.  Smith and Notre Dame center Braxston Cave even showed off the shirts to local media during a news conference prior to the game.

"We had the game on which would have been his 23rd birthday," said Corsones. "We thought it would be really nice if the whole student body instead of the our dorm could be throwing up the X at the football game."

But October 29th couldn't come soon enough for Murphy, whose health declined quickly in just a month. On October 9th, Marcia was sitting next to her son reading scripture and saying the rosary as death approached quickly.

Coincidentally, as Notre Dame fans got ready to change a tradition in his honor, Xavier found a way to change himself in the final hours of his life.

"He never talked about being afraid, he became more concerned about other people," said Marcia-and the proof came on that Sunday night.

As she began to cry at the sight of her ailing son, Xavier caught his mother's grief out of the corner of her eye and immediately offered comfort.

"He said 'Mom, what's wrong' and I looked up and just said 'Its very difficult for me to watch you in this much pain," remembered Murphy of the exchange. "Its really weird, he smiled at me and he took my head in his hands, which that wasn't something that he would do and he said 'Don't cry, I'm OK, I'll be fine.'"

That wouldn't be the case for Murphy, who passed away early on October 11th. The call came to Colonna at 8:30 P.M. and the job of telling the Zahm residents was soon on his shoulders.

"At one point there were 20 people in my room in utter silence didn't know what to do some tears. One of the first questions was are we still going to move forward with the raise an x idea," said Colonna of the talks following Xavier's death. "When we talk about what we've accomplished, I said to a lot of people there are 206 men in the hall plus me that didn't know what to do with our grief.

"So the energy that we had we decided to pour into that campaign."

With the added resolve Zahm was able to get cooperation from the football team and the cheerleading squad to help facilitate the tribute while spreading the word. It paid off when the game arrived on October 29th, with the Murphy family witnessed a new tradition.

"I could hear around us that even kids that weren't quite aware of it, they started doing the other cheer and then I heard kids around it saying 'No, no, no, we're doing the "X" today for Xavier," said Corsones of the first time the Celtic Chant was played.

The "X's" went up with more frequency the next time and when the tribute was announced over the public address system, the "Raise An X For An X" went stadium wide.

"To look up, all 80,000 people in the stadium were raising the X, which is much more than we expected. Home team, away team, all the fans," said Colonna. "That was a beautiful moment, I raised my arms in the air and looked up in the sky and felt very confident that Xavier saw us.

"That was moment of prayer in the midst of the football game."

Next to Colonna was Marcia, whose thoughts immediately went to her son and his love for the tradition of the school.

"Everybody else embraced this tradition to honor him," said Murphy of the "X's", which continued through Notre Dame's 56-14 victory. "It makes his life even though his life, even though it was really short, seem very perfect. Because so many of his dreams came true.

"That makes me really happy that I will forever associate Xavier Murphy with Notre Dame, it seems very fitting."

Tradition will tell that to be so.

 

 

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