SOUTH BEND — Ian Book already faces a lot of pressure being the starting quarterback for Notre Dame. He’s one of four QB’s left playing for a chance to win a National Championship and recently was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That pressure gets amped up for road games, as the Fighting Irish tend to get a team’s best effort when they come into town.
For Book, though, his first important decision on road trips comes long before the opening kickoff. In fact, it usually comes from about 40,000 feet in the air.
“We are 4-0 on picking the best movies so far,” Book said.
What the junior quarterback was referring to is the movie selection he and starting center Sam Mustipher make when on the plane to road games. It’s as important of a decision as Book will make the entire weekend.
“We’ll bounce back ideas from each other … there was one with Tom Cruise in it. They were older movies, and we both hadn’t seen them. So, we both gave them a shot,” Book said. “It’s something we do every flight. We just watch a movie and tap each other when something cool happens.”
The one with Cruise in it was ‘Collateral,’ Mustipher confirmed.
“It was with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, where Jamie Foxx is a cab driver. And then we watched ‘The Commuter’ with Liam Neeson,” Mustipher said.
Mustipher sees it as more of a collaborative effort when it comes to selecting which movie to watch on the flight.
“So, on the plane, he’ll either sit right in front of me or right next to me — we’ve been next to each other for a few of the flights,” the graduate senior said. “He’ll pick something, watch it, and I’ll watch the previews of it and let him know if I think it’s going to be a good movie. I just trust what he says.”
The relationship between a quarterback and his center is one of great importance to every football team. These in-flight moments allow Book and Mustipher to develop that.
“Personally, my relationship with Sam has gotten so much better. As a team, he’s a leader for the offensive line and a leader for this team in general,” Book said. “Guys listen to him, and that’s really important.”
“I think off-the-field relationships is most important for chemistry between a quarterback and his football team,” Mustipher added. “All the greats have a great rapport with all his teammates, and I think (Book) understands that. When you build that trust off the field, on the field becomes the easy part.”
Notre Dame has taken a lot of long flights this year, including two to California. This means teammates have spent a lot of time sitting next to each other on trips across three time zones.
“I usually sit next to (running back) Tony Jones. That’s my guy. That’s my brother. He and I share a lot of laughs,” running back Dexter Williams said. “And Book is kind of two seats in front of me. I then have Alize (Mack) in front of me and Chase Claypool right behind me. It’s just one big family when we ride on these planes.”
Williams and Jones bond over a game called ‘Knockout.’
“Basically, you have two ways to go. So, if someone goes up or down, you have to go to the side. And if they go to the side, you have to go up or down. Basically, whoever gets to three knockouts first wins,” Williams said, explaining how the game works. “So, that’s a game we usually play. We just try to have fun.”
Linebacker Te’von Coney and defensive end Jerry Tillery also enjoy playing the ‘Knockout’ game. Coney and Tillery also use that time to learn, especially on the flight back after games.
“We get the iPad and watch film. Try to go over some things and see how we can get better,” Coney said. “We’re always trying to find ways to improve ourselves and never be complacent.”
Being able to have those moments off the field has brought the Irish together on it.
“It definitely helps us out on the field. Just from all the hardships we’ve been through since January and all the workouts (director of football performance coach Matt) Balis has put us through and how hard the practices have been,” Williams said. “It’s definitely created a bond that is unbreakable between us.”
No word on the other two films Book and Mustipher watched to get to their 4-0 record.
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN