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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Calabrese adds physical presence to defense

In an Irish linebacking corps crowded with talent, senior inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese is a force to be reckoned with all on his own. With 136 career tackles and counting, Calabrese has served as a constant presence on defense for the last three years.

The New Jersey native, who clocks in at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, was ranked the 12th-best inside linebacker by ESPN as a high school senior. He played quarterback and receiver during high school in addition to his role on defense - he caught 27 passes for 488 yards and totaled 131 tackles his senior year alone. While he was heavily recruited by Boston College and Rutgers, Calabrese said the choice to come to Notre Dame was an easy one.

"This school has great tradition," Calabrese said. "I visited a lot of schools and one of the biggest things that persuaded me to come here was just being here and seeing this atmosphere. No other school made like this and made me feel at home and that was a big part of the decision."

Calabrese, who lived in Siegfried Hall as an underclassman, said he's never regretted his decision to attend Notre Dame. He said he lines up each week eager to satisfy the expectations of the Irish fans.

"My favorite part is playing in front of all the fans and putting on a great show for them," he said. "I just love when fans are happy."

Calabrese preserved a year of eligibility his freshman year under former Irish coach Charlie Weis and said despite not playing, he still felt a rush when he ran out on the field.

"My first year, it was great, just running out on the field," Calabrese said. "Knowing you play for such a great team."

With the transition from Weis to current Irish coach Brian Kelly at the end of the 2009 season, Calabrese said the support of the assistant coaches made the coaching change easier.

"It was a big change but these coaches here recruited me, so I knew them," Calabrese said. "It was hard, but at the same time it wasn't."

As a sophomore, Calabrese got his chance to take the field for the first time. He played in 11 games, missing two because of a hamstring injury. With 60 tackles that season, he was an immediate force on defense. He had a career-high 10 tackles during his second collegiate appearance against Michigan on Sept. 11, 2010, though the Irish lost that contest 28-24.

Calabrese said his high point of the dominant sophomore season was finally getting the opportunity to play.

"Sophomore year was the year I was actually going to be running out on the field," Calabrese said. "The best part was knowing you're going to start and play for that team."

Against Boston College on Oct. 10, 2010, Calabrese recorded a career high of 3.5 tackles for a loss, the best single-game performance by a Notre Dame player during the 2010 season.

During the 2011 season, Calabrese played in all 13 games as a reserve linebacker. He recorded 37 tackles, 15 of them individual, and tied his season high of five tackles during contests against Pittsburgh, Maryland, Air Force and South Florida.

So far as a senior, Calabrese has returned as a dominant presence on defense. With at least two more contests remaining, the senior has 39 tackles. His season high came in his first game of the season against Purdue, where he had a hand in seven tackles.

Calabrese said the highlight of his senior year was the 30-13 victory over Oklahoma on Oct. 27. Calabrese had five tackles against Oklahoma, including an assisted tackle for a loss of one yard.

"Being in their stadium and beating them there was incredible," Calabrese said. "It was a great game.  We were both high-ranked teams and it was a battle."

Calabrese said throughout his time at Notre Dame, team unity was never something he had to worry about.

"There's good camaraderie with our whole team," Calbrese said. "We've got great team bonding. We're all friends, we all know each other and we're always together. It's a great team."

Calabrese said Kelly and the rest of the coaches have been a huge influence on his time at Notre Dame, especially defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

"It's great playing for Kelly," Calabrese said. "He teaches us a lot each week, and Coach Diaco teaches us things we're going to remember the rest of our lives, not only in football. It's great playing for them both."

With the attention of both coaches, Calabrese said he believes he has made major improvements to his game throughout his time with the Irish.

"I think I'm getting better and better each year," Calabrese said. "I'm getting wiser and learning the game more."

Kelly said he believed Calabrese has improved against the passing game even within his senior season.

"There's more confidence," Kelly said after Notre Dame's 29-26 triple-overtime victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 11.  "But I think Carlo has definitely closed the gap there in terms of his development this year in the passing game."

Though he will graduate with a degree in industrial design in the spring, Calabrese's time with the Irish will not end. Calabrese hopes to return to Notre Dame next year as a graduate student in order to utilize his fourth and final year of eligibility.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do," Calabrese said. "I've got to see what options I have when I graduate and see my advisers and go from there."

Though he's not certain yet what post-graduate degree he will pursue, he said he hopes his time with the Irish will continue for a final year.  


Contact Katie Heit at