Notre Dame offensive lineman Zeke Correll and family reflect on his Cincinnati roots
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. – Zeke: "I have to get a lot of tickets. I know that much. It feels good knowing I have that many people in my corner."
Notre Dame offensive lineman Zeke Correll is a Cincinnati native and is expecting a big cheering section today.
And there may not be anyone who understands the meaning and importance of team better than the junior O-lineman.
Zeke is the youngest of 9 kids- together with his parents - the Corrells could field the entire Irish offense all by themselves!
It made for a hectic but fun childhood, and the Cincinnati Correll crew could almost have its own television sitcom.
Zeke: "Sarah's 38, Rachel 36, Hannah's 34, Gabe is 32, Mary's 30, Caleb's 28, Jesse's 26, Josh is 24 and then there's me, who's 20."
Notre Dame offensive lineman Zeke Correll is the baby of the Correll crew- the youngest of 9 children- and 5 brothers.
Allison: "Was football in the back yard an everyday occasion?"
Zeke: "Oh yeah. It was football in the backyard, basketball in the front and then we'd play whiffle ball all the time in the backyard. Hit the ball over the wires and it was a homerun. But, everything we did, we played sports together every day. Every single day my brothers would say 'It's TT, which means it's Tussle Time. So, they'd always wrestle me.”
That competitive nature runs in the family.
Zeke: "Even video games. We'd play each other and if you lost, you were so mad because you never want to lose to your brother, especially if you're the older brother. If you're the older brother and you lose then you feel like disgraced cause you can't lose to younger brother."
Playing football also runs in the family - Zeke's grandpa, Ray Correll, was an all-American guard - playing for legendary coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant at the University of Kentucky.
His dad Steve and brother Gabe followed in Ray's footsteps, playing football for the Wildcats, too.
Zeke: "That was like awesome growing up, getting to experience college football. I was like 'Oh, I want to do this.' Ever since I started playing football in kindergarten. So having an older brother that played college football, I was like 'Wow, that would be really cool if I could do that.'”
5 of his 9 siblings played sports at the collegiate level.
Zeke: "Seeing my other brothers have great success with football and high school and even like just balling out in like Pee Wee, whatever it was. I looked up to all of them. Not only how they were able to be better men out of it but also just gain respect from their peers and teammates because of what they're able to do. So, I wanted to be a part of that as well."
From his first snaps, Zeke was typically the biggest player on his teams.
As he grew in size and athleticism, so did the attention he was receiving from college coaches, earning a scholarship offer from the University of Cincinnati his sophomore year.
Zeke: "They were my first offer and just being from Cincinnati. But I mean, Notre Dame is the school that I wanted to go to and I love it here."
While Zeke forged his own path at Notre Dame- he took Gabe's advice when it came to finding a crew of his own within the team.
Zeke: "Just being able to hear from him how important it is to build a brotherhood in the football team and just enjoy it because it's a really small portion of your life. And, I mean, it's a blessing to be here. And then now obviously, the offensive line at the University of Notre Dame is the most tight-knit unit in the country."
Notre Dame's O-line has certainly made a name for itself nationally over the years- producing some of the best lineman in the NFL- from Aaron Taylor to Mike Maglinchy.
While most players have attempted to capitalize on their own name image and likeness, the Irish cut an endorsement deal with Mission Bar-B-Que and Jet's Pizza that benefits the entire line.
Zeke: "We found out that we literally, we can go in and get free food whenever you want if you're on the Notre Dame offensive line. So, I mean, it's delicious, it's very good and being able to go in and get a free meal that high quality is awesome."
Food is the way to an offensive lineman's heart- and with the Correll crew growing to include spouses and 10 grand kids- family dinners are also a sport.
Zeke: "I would say it's very, very hectic, though. Like, especially dinner. Mom calls the boys to get dinner and everyone's running in there. There were never any fights for food, we always had enough food but there definitely was a lot of competition."
The thought of it makes Zeke miss his hometown.
Zeke: "Honestly, I would say either my dad's wings, which are my favorite, or my parents make grilled chicken and mashed potatoes. It's real simple but it just reminds me of home. Mashed potatoes are amazing."
And it's not just home cooking that he misses.
Zeke: "Skyline, their Chili Dogs and they have chili but the thing is, their chili is different than other chili dog places. They have, they put a little bit of chocolate in there and I know that sounds gross but it tastes very, very good. And the cheese is the best cheese in the world. I'll say that. Skyline shredded cheese, they mound it on there, is unbelievable. I miss it so much. That's like, obviously I miss home cooking but Skyline, man if I could just get some Skyline up here, that'd be awesome
Allison: "That sounds like it beats out Mom's anything."
Zeke: "I can't say that on video, but, maybe."