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Coach Autry Denson uses experience, faith to help Irish players excel

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Notre Dame's Running Backs Coach Autry Denson is not only a former Irish great, he is using his experience and faith to take Notre Dame to the next level.

Denson is all over Notre Dame's record books.

He ranks second with 43 career rushing touchdowns and 5300 all-purpose yards. He's also Notre Dame's all-time rushing leader with 4318 yards for his career.

When you ask him to talk about his accolades, the All-American deflects the attention to what he did off the field.

"My mom taught me a long time ago, I was blessed to play football. Given that talent, so that I could be a voice for others. So to me, volunteering at the homeless center; working in the summer with National Youth sports program. So those are, to me, the wow moments because they gave me the opportunity to, because I was playing football, to change and touch other people's lives," Denson said.

Denson was MVP of the 1999 Gator Bowl and played 4 years in the NFL.

He retired in 2004.

After 6 years away from football, something called him back to the game.

"I had no interest in going into coaching. I accepted my calling of going into ministry and God lead me to sports to use athletics as my platform. So it wasn't like a calling it is a calling. That's exactly what happened. If I didn't accept my calling to go into ministry, I would not be coaching," Denson said.

He uses his faith as a way to connect with his players.

"The way I live is my testimony. It's not something I beat them over the head with. It's how I live, it's the things that I do, it's the way I carry myself at all times. So, it's more of modeling the behavior that I want them to model or that I want them to emulate if they have those aspirations," Denson said.

For Denson, his job goes beyond coaching. The players become family.

"For me, coaching is just like parenting. So all it is, the more you love them and the more they know you love them, the more they don't want to let you down. So, that's my formula for success. We spent a significant amount of time obviously invested into them as athletes but I spend twice as much time investing in them as young men. My guys know I love them so they play hard not to let me down," Denson said.

This year's Irish backs are certainly running hard. Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, Tony Jones Junior and Deon McIntosh have combined for 795 yards and 9 touchdowns this season.

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