Fiesta Bowl the final game for Notre Dame's Fasano?

Updated: December 29, 2005, 12:14 PM ET
Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Anthony Fasano approaches the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as if it might be his last game. The Notre Dame tight end takes that thought into every game, knowing a career-ending injury is always possible.

This time, the feeling is more real. He still has a year of eligibility and he's thinking about entering the NFL draft.

"With a decision not being made and not knowing where my future is right now, I'm definitely going to treat it as my last game," he said, referring to Monday's showdown with Ohio State. "It's not going to be much different than other games. But going into the game I know it might possibly be my last game."

Fasano, 6-foot-4 and 257 pounds, didn't enter the season with such thoughts. He was second on the team last year with 27 catches for 367 yards. In two seasons, he had 45 catches for 536 yards.

But this season alone he had 45 catches for 564 yards. That was good enough to make him one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, which is given each year to an outstanding tight end.

"His goal every game starts with being able to dominate on the line of scrimmage as a blocker because a tight end's job is to be an extension of the offensive line," coach Charlie Weis said.

"This offense is not one where the tight end is detached all over the place and just running routes as a receiver. It all starts with a run-pass threat, and I think Anthony has been one of our most consistent players the entire season."

Fasano learned that Weis thought he might be NFL material from the coach's comments in a newspaper.

"He's not going to really share that with us, especially during the season," Fasano said. "But coming from him, it's a real compliment."

Fasano said he will depend heavily on the advice of Weis, the former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, on whether to enter the draft.

"I appreciate that so much," Fasano said. "When he tells you something, it's going to be the truth and it's going to be what you need to succeed in the NFL."

Weis described Fasano as a player in the "gray area" because he will receive his degree this spring.

"I don't want to be a hypocrite. I want Anthony Fasano to be part of our program. But the biggest thing is I want what's best for these kids," Weis said. "As long as they're walking out of there with a Notre Dame degree and it's not going to really hurt their pockets tremendously, I would never discourage it. I'm not going to encourage, I'm just not going to discourage it."

Fasano and his coach share a New Jersey bond and have had a special relationship since Weis was hired. Weis said he was at ease from the beginning talking with Fasano, saying he could get a message across to him with just a look.

"Anthony was one of those who I didn't have to say much. He's seen me 1,000 times. He knows 1,000 Charlie Weises, where some of these guys didn't know one," Weis said.

Fasano knew from what he saw at spring practice that Weis was on the right track.

"This team was organized and had their head on straight. I think I knew we were going to be in the right direction," he said.

Fasano was excited when Weis took him aside before the season and told him he could expect to see the ball much more.

Fasano now has another job -- help the No. 5 Irish (9-2) beat No. 4 Ohio State. The Irish are 10th in the nation in total offense at 489 yards a game. The Buckeyes are fourth in the nation in total defense at 275 yards a game.

"Because for us to prove that we are a good offense -- and not only in stats -- we have to play good people," Fasano said. "And as a competitor, going up against the best is why I came to this school."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press