Stephon Tuitt: Mama’s boy and Notre Dame man

You came from the rain to the sunshine and this cold, cold world can be unkind. But you made it (you made it). Yea, you made it (you made it). And there ain’t a soul in this world that can take that away from you. –from “Single Mothers,” Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt’s favorite video

What drives me is I think about my family most of the time. I want the ability to help my family out. I want to stay humble. I want to stay on the right path and not do anything stupid. I don’t want anybody to get in my way. I just won’t stop…no matter how hurt I get. –Stephon Tuitt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgB8R07_x4k

In many ways sophomore Stephon Tuitt’s long touchdown run against Navy last Saturday was a long time coming. After fighting through suspensions, sickness, and even doubts about his decision to play at Notre Dame, number seven’s 77-yard fumble-rumble seemed to vindicate Tuitt’s tough road to success. Although it did not seem that way at first…

First, there was the signing process itself, where Tuitt committed, decommitted (after talking again to Georgia Tech) then recommitted to Notre Dame within a span of 36 hours. It was Tuitt’s mom, Tamara Bartlett, who set her son straight.

“I never changed my mind in the first place,” she said of her son decommitting to Notre Dame. “Stephon did. The reason he was wavering back and forth all boils down to him not wanting to hurt anybody’s feelings. He had developed relationships with all these coaches and didn’t want to disappoint them. But somebody’s going to have to be disappointed and today it’s Georgia Tech,” reminding detractors that players need the signature of a parent or a legal guardian on a National Letter of Intent to make it valid.

In the end, Tuitt realized his mom was right in believing that Notre Dame was the best place for her son in the long run. Ms. Bartlett is clearly the person Tuitt thinks about when watching “Single Mother,” his favorite song-video that not only “keeps me humble and dedicated to succeed in life,” but often “bring tears” to his eyes. Still, during a difficult freshman season, cries of “mama’s boy” were the least of his worries.

First, Tuitt and fellow freshman defensive standout Aaron Lynch were benched during the Michigan game for disciplinary reasons, and their absense was keenly felt in the Irish’s last-second 35-31 loss. Then, Tuitt was suspended for the Purdue game after missing an early morning class when he overslept. Then, when things were finally starting to come around, a bout with mononucleosis sidelined Tuitt for the last three games and took about 15 to 20 pounds off his frame.

“All that stuff was a learning experience,” Tuitt said later. “The maturity I was able to grow after doing something like that [then dealing with] a severe sickness…really made me a better man.”

During spring practice, Coach Brian Kelly who calls Tuitt one of his most “gifted” players, “set a high bar” for Stephon. Despite the disappointing loss of his friend Lynch (who failed to endure the demands of Notre Dame and transferred to South Florida) Tuitt still did everything both on the field and off that his coaches demanded of him, and cemented his role as a starter. And, after a breakout game against Navy, he’s hoping to make a similar impact against Purdue, the team his suspension prevented him from playing against last season.

Of course, it remains to be seen if Tuitt will continue his dominance against more formidable opponents, something Notre Dame will need for it to continue in the win column. But at the very least, it appears Tuitt has truly found a second home under the Dome. Because if you’re a son who always dedicates his good deed to his mother, where better to play than the place you can have two moms (an earthly and heavenly one), a place you can enter as a mama’s boy and depart a Notre Dame man.

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