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Tom Zbikowski ... The Battler
As told to Joe Lemire
September 10, 2007
HE'S A third-team All-America safety and an electrifying punt returner, and he certainly puts some fight into the Irish. Notre Dame senior Tom Zbikowski was once a fearsome Golden Gloves boxer, going 75--15 before winning his pro debut at Madison Square Garden last year with a 49-second KO. So, if the Irish find themselves at an especially low point (they lost to Georgia Tech 33--3 last week, and this Saturday face No. 17 Penn State), the 6-foot, 207-pound Zbikowski may be the man to get them up off the canvas.
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September 10, 2007

Tom Zbikowski ... The Battler

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My dad [Eddie, a former Golden Gloves fighter] is a fight fan, so I'd watch fights with him. I asked if I could train and learn to box, and I started a month before my 10th birthday. My mom [Sue] wasn't too happy about it. She said if I ever got knocked out, I'd be done boxing. Luckily that's never happened. My mom has come to my last three fights, but when I was a kid she would almost never come. She didn't enjoy the places we were boxing. A lot of times they were bars with girls that liked to dance.

On sparring with top boxers

I used to spar against guys like the WBC lightweight champion David Diaz. When you spar against guys like that and then go into amateur fights, it's almost like the amateur fights are in slow motion. Guys like Diaz go into a fight and within 30 seconds they're setting up combinations to go against your weaknesses. I almost busted my jaw while sparring—I couldn't really eat for a week—but in a real fight, I never got caught like that.

On returning punts

You're back there all alone, and it feels like 20-some guys are running straight down on you. You've got to find your seam and hit it as hard as you can, just take off running. You can't have any second thoughts or any fears.

On whether he has any fears

I do, but I try to keep that quiet and not let people know what they are.

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