Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer already told reporters back in South Bend why he wants to beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Turns out, he's not the only one even in his own position room with such motivation. Fellow Ohio native Malik Zaire wants a shot at the Buckeyes, too.
“If there's anything that has made this game a circled game on their schedule more than me, it's Malik,” Kizer said Monday in Glendale, Ariz. “He's had this fire to play against them since the day he stepped on campus. He's taken that mindset, that fire, tried to throw it at me.”
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Only Kizer, a redshirt freshman from Toledo Central Catholic, will actually get to take the field against Ohio State because Zaire, a sophomore from Kettering Alter, is still rehabbing from a broken ankle, but that doesn't mean the latter is sitting idly by.
“He's at practice yelling, screaming, being more vocal than he has been all year,” Kizer said. “He really wants to come out with a victory this game. That fire in turn has helped me with my preparation to take everything as seriously as I possibly can.”
Both were recruited by Ohio State, though Zaire was an early offer while Kizer did not get his until after the Fighting Irish stepped up to the plate.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford confirmed he could feel the energy from the pair.
“The quarterback room was pretty excited, to say the least, about the opportunity to play against the mighty in-state Ohio State Buckeyes,” Sanford said. “Obviously, when you grow up in the state of Ohio, there is no bigger thing than Buckeyes.
“Those guys, they grew up going to their games. They grew up in the recruiting process going to games of theirs. They understand the magnitude of that program, they understand the respect that program has garnered, particularly over the last four or five years with what coach has done.
Eventually Sanford felt the need to rein them in a bit.
“They were really excited about the opportunity,” he said. “I had to remind them, this isn't about the in-state school, it's about a football game, about preparation. They've done a great job of transitioning back into the mindset of preparing for a great game against a great opponent, putting forth their best effort.”
Kizer is 22nd nationally in both pass efficiency and yards per completion (13.8) despite entering the season with no college playing experience and expecting to be Zaire's backup.
He agreed with Sanford's assessment that whatever emotion was there early has subsided, but Kizer does see some conflict among his family members.
“Yeah, some of my closest friends and a lot of my family members were Ohio State fans growing up,” he said. “They're all kind of put into awkward positions now when their nephew or their good friend is out there playing against their favorite team.
“Everyone kind of has the same mindset: they want me to be as successful as I possibly can, root for me, but obviously they want their favorite team to win.
“That's something I've removed myself from. I've done a pretty good job of doing that on campus, and with family, trying to stay away from that whole scene.
“It's time to make decisions for some of my family members, are you wearing scarlet and gold or blue and gray.”
He also pointed out Ohio State wasn't really unique in pursuing other quarterbacks before him, including current Clemson signal-caller Deshaun Watson.
“There's about 30 other teams in the country that I can say the same thing about,” he said. “Just another big-time school who didn't put an offer on the line (early). They're not the only one who didn't.”