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R.I.P. Asaph Schwapp

Asaph Schwapp, maybe the last true fullback in Notre Dame history, died this afternoon after a year-long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 26.

Former Irish fullback Asaph Schwapp lost his battle with cancer at age 26.

The 6-0, 257-pound Schwapp enrolled at Notre Dame in the summer of 2005 after earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors in his home state of Connecticut. One of the first recruits under new head coach Charlie Weis, Schwapp was an inspiring story because he made the most of his talents after his mother, Evelyn, died from ovarian cancer when he was 9 years old.

Raised by an aunt and uncle, Schwapp grew up in the rough inner-city of Hartford, Conn., but was ranked among the top five students in his senior class at Weaver High School and was one of the strongest freshmen ever to attend Notre Dame, bench-pressing 455 pounds upon his arrival. He also ran a 24.0 in the 200 meters at Weaver.

“My whole thing is trying to make my family proud,” Schwapp said during his first month at Notre Dame. “That is driving me, and that is part of why I chose Notre Dame. It doesn’t get much better.”

A mid-season suspension to senior fullback Rashon Powers-Neal thrust Schwapp into more extensive action as a freshman, and his first start came in the 34-31 loss to No. 1 USC. Notre Dame finished the regular season 9-2 and No. 5 in the nation before losing 34-20 to No. 4 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Schwapp carried 27 times for 67 yards as a freshman, but his main job was to be a lead blocker, especially in short-yardage situations, for 1,000-yard rusher Darius Walker. Schwapp was credited with 111:35 playing time as a freshman, easily the most in the 15-man rookie class (wide receiver David Grimes was a distant second with 26:06).

A knee injury sidelined Schwapp in 2006 after he started the first two games, but he was the regular starter at fullback again in 2007 and 2008. He finished his college career with 98 yards on 44 carries, and also caught eight passes for 62 yards.

Although former tailback James Aldridge is officially listed as Notre Dame’s last starting fullback in 2009, Schwapp fit the description a little more in the classic I-formation set. At Notre Dame, the fullback used to be a centerpiece in the offense, particularly under head coach Lou Holtz (1986-96) with future NFL starters or standouts such as Anthony Johnson, Rodney Culver, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, Ray Zellars and Marc Edwards. However, the position was gradually phased out in recent years, especially with the game going toward more multiple wideout sets and spread alignments.

Schwapp, who earned his degree in the Mendoza College of Business, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys in 2009 but was cut before the regular season began. He played with the Hartford Colonials in the UFL in 2010 before becoming a free agent.

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