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Thursday, January 16
Boyhood dream comes true for Zbikowski

By Wayne Drehs

After an in-home visit with Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham Wednesday night, Buffalo Grove (Ill.) quarterback/defensive back Tommy Zbikowski decided he couldn't deny his boyhood dreams any longer -- he had to play for the Irish.

So despite coaches from Nebraska offering a chance to play quarterback and coaches from Iowa promising a hand-written letter that head coach Kirk Ferentz wouldn't leave for the NFL, the Polish Catholic kid from suburban Chicago committed to Notre Dame late Wednesday night.

Tom Zbikowski chose Notre Dame over Nebraska and Iowa.
His mother, Sue, confirmed the news Thursday morning.

"We were dancing around the house last night, doing the Polish hop to the Notre Dame fight song," Sue said. "He couldn't have gone wrong with any of his three final schools, but it was great that he finally made up his mind."

Tom Zbikowski was in school Thursday and unavailable for comment. Officials from Notre Dame are not allowed to comment on prospective recruits until national signing day, Feb. 5.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Zbikowski, who played both quarterback and safety for Buffalo Grove, was considered one of the top overall athletes in the country. In 11 games, Zbikowski passed for 1,334 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,172 yards and 22 touchdowns. He had 41 tackles and two interceptions as a safety.

He earned first-team All-State honors in Illinois and was the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year. He was also one of six finalists for the Ken Hall Award, given each year to the nation's top high school player. He is also an amateur boxer with an overall record of 60-13 and will most likely play safety or cornerback for the Irish.

Zbikowski chose Notre Dame over Nebraska and Iowa. Perhaps Sue Zbikowski put it best, following Tommy's strong performance at cornerback in the U.S. Army All-American Game two weeks ago.

"It's a win-win situation," she said. "However, if you had a chance to get a degree from Nebraska, Iowa or Notre Dame, which would you pick?

"With the alumni ties, if he goes to Notre Dame, he'll be set for life."

As of Wednesday afternoon, Zbikowski's father said his son was unsure what he wanted to do. Questions remained with each of his three finalists.

At Nebraska, the recent hiring of New Mexico State assistant and former Husker Barney Cotton as offensive coordinator left Zbikowski unsure what the future of the Husker offense would be.

With Iowa, the Zbikowski family was concerned how long Ferentz would stay in Iowa City, following back-to-back offseasons of courting from NFL teams. Last year, the Colts were reportedly interesting in interviewing Ferentz for their head coaching opening. This year, Ferentz interviewed with Jacksonville before deciding to stay with the Hawkeyes on Wednesday.

In regards to Notre Dame, Ed Zbikowski said Wednesday that Tommy had three major concerns going into his meeting with Willingham: playing time, whether or not he will redshirt and, if he plays defense, the possibility of returning kicks or punts.

"We know about the academics, the history, the great institution, these are just a couple questions that Tommy has," Ed said. "After those are answered, we'll see."

Apparently, they were answered satisfactorily and Zbikowski, who grew up watching the movie "Rudy" and idolizing everything blue and gold, will be headed to South Bend next fall.

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at He can be reached at . is following Tom Zbikowski on his journey from high school to the college ranks. Zbikowski is writing a diary about his recruitment, and there will be weekly updates on the recruiting process through Signing Day on Feb. 5, 2003. Later today, look for Zbikowski's latest diary installment and a more in-depth look at why he chose the Irish.

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