The father of the most famous defensive player in college football lived in Broward County during first grade.
Brian and his wife, Ottilia, were swarmed and cheered by Fighting Irish fans in the East parking lot of Sun Life Stadium, as the two made their way toward the stadium gates.
“I’m 41 now so that was 30-something years ago,” Brian said of his childhood stint in Broward.
“[My dad] was a pastry chef, and he opened up a brand new bakery. We had just moved from Hawaii, and about a year later he got summoned to go back to Samoa to take care of family matters. So, we left.”
Brian said he attended Stirling Elementary [in Hollywood] and that “my English teacher was a woman named Mrs. Johnson. I was the only one who brought my lunch in a big brown paper bag. Everybody had a lunch box and on my birthday my dad decided to get me a Hulk lunchbox so I would fit in with everybody else. I remember my days here very much.”
Brian and Ottilia, who traveled to South Florida from their home in Laie, Hawaii, wore blue No. 5 Notre Dame jerseys.
“Our children are the most important people in our lives,” Ottilia said. “This is not just about Manti; it’s about the team and the brotherhood they share. We’re so happy and proud that he’ll be walking away from Notre Dame not only with a [a great] season, but with that degree [in graphic and industrial design]. We’re so proud of that.”
Said Brian: “This is surreal. Regardless of the results of the game, we’re just extremely proud of what Manti has been able to do, not just necessarily as a football player but as a human being. We couldn’t be any more proud.”
How frustrating was the Alabama barrage for the Fighting Irish?
Consider that entering Monday night, Notre Dame led the Football Bowl Subdivision in red-zone touchdowns allowed percentage (24.2 percent), points allowed per red-zone trip (2.9), total red-zone touchdowns allowed (eight), red-zone rushing touchdowns allowed (two) and total red-zone points allowed (95) in the regular season.
But Alabama scored touchdowns on all four of its red-zone chances in the first half.
Notre Dame allowed just 10 passing plays longer than 25 yards in the regular season. The Tide had five such passing plays in the first half.
Irish defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore injured what appeared to be his right leg with 1:06 left in the first half. Notre Dame officials did not reveal the injury and said he would not return.
IRISH BUY BIG
For the 2012 college football season, according to Fanatics.com, an online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, Notre Dame is the top-selling school on the site, with Alabama No. 2.
Alabama was No. 1 for the first half of the season, until the Irish took over the top spot in the middle of October. Notre Dame also owns the largest year-over-year increase among all colleges at 223 percent, compared to the 2011 season.