Zeke Motta: The Revelation of the Notre Dame Gentleman Beast

By Tom O'Toole

A beast on the field and a gentleman off it.
—Senior safety Zeke Motta’s explanation of how he hopes Notre Dame fans will recall his career

So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
—Revelation 3:16

When Ezekiel Edward Motta began to play football for fun in a fourth-grade recreational league, his father Bill eagerly “lowered” himself from his job as a high school coach for the chance to coach his son. But even though football and his father were always around, he didn’t fully grasp the lessons of the elder Motta until last summer. And you can bet both God and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are glad he did.

Sure, Motta’s dad coached him all through little league and high school in Vero Beach, Florida. And yes, Zeke was good enough to earn a football scholarship to Notre Dame, where he started 16 of 24 games during his sophomore and junior seasons. But to Bill Motta, “good” wasn’t good enough.

For example, when his father watched game tapes over past summers, Zeke would go surfing. And when it was suggested he should inquire about the freshman spot on Notre Dame’s leadership council in 2008, and Motta scoffed, “I really don’t care,” Bill knew this attitude had to change.

“Mediocrity, there’s no place for it,” Bill explained. “The Bible says, ‘be hot or cold, don’t be lukewarm, or I will vomit you out of my mouth.’ That’s what we try to do.”

So before his son returned home to Vero Beach this summer, the elder Motta asked a simple question: “What are your goals?” After Zeke wrote them down, he asked his son to write down exactly how he would attempt to achieve them.

The result: three workouts and six to seven meals a day, including lifting, Vertimax jump and resistance training, and speed and agility drills in the sand. And, of course, prayers.

“I didn’t want to waste the talent that God has given me or waste the opportunity that I have here,” Motta decided. “I am definitely [now] approaching each day and cherishing each day, giving back to the Lord.”

Or, in Irish coach Brian Kelly‘s words,”It’s probably one of the most remarkable developments of a player from year one..to year three. The way he practiced, the dedication he has to the game, [Motta’s] the kind of young man…you want representing your team.”

And with all the injuries to the secondaries, Jamarious Slaughter and Lo Wood, Motta’s development into a senior leader came just in the nick of time. Motta, who is second in tackles (26) for the Irish this year, is now the only member of the Irish secondary left with any defensive experience entering this season. Thus, his successful on-field coaching of Matthias Farley, who was a reserve wide-receiver who didn’t play as a freshman, junior cornerback Bennett Jackson, who switched from wide-receiver, and freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell who was recruited as a running back, is nothing short of remarkable.

But can Motta reach his goal of being a beast on the field and a gentleman off?

Looking in the book of Revelation (which his father motivated Motta from) for an answer, I did find a beast there with seven heads and ten horns. But that might be too extreme for Motta, for that look would probably stand out even with the new uniforms.

For now, Motta and his mates should settle for being one of the seven avenging angels (Rev 15:1). Not only are they just as aggressive (in a good way) as the beast, but their goal, defending the “woman clothed with the sun,” is already a familiar one to the loyal sons of Notre Dame.

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