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This Guy Plays Notre Dame Football: #56 Howard Cross III, Defensive End

Will Cross III be moved inside to provide depth at the 3-technique tackle during his freshman season?

Howard cross Notre Dame football
Howard Cross III
Instagram @howard_cross56

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a roster full of players, and we want to talk about them all. One Foot Down’s player profile series will take a look at every single one of them, and hopefully we all learn a little bit more about these guys, and Notre Dame’s chances for the upcoming 2019 season.

#56 Howard Cross III, Defensive End

Howard Cross III officially committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on April 22, 2018. He selected the Irish over offers from the Michigan Wolverines, Northwestern Wildcats, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Tennessee Volunteers.

Cross is a consensus 4 star recruit. He stands 6’ 1’’ and weighs 265 pounds. Rivals ranked him as the 23rd best strongside defensive end in the country. His hometown is Paramus, New Jersey, and he attended Saint Joseph Regional High School. His father, Howard Cross Jr., played 13 years for the New York Giants after being selected in the 1989 NFL Draft in the 6th round. Though his father was a successful NFL player, Cross III stated, “My dad basically didn’t want me to play football. He encouraged every other sport when I was a kid. I just decided I wanted to try it and I had a lot of fun playing it, and here I am.”

During his senior season, Howard Cross III finished with 76 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. His senior campaign led to him being selected as the 2018 Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year.

Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, or Chicago

“It’s My Life”-Bon Jovi

I had to pick a Bon Jovi song here considering both men hail from the state of New Jersey. Howard Cross III learned growing up that he can not worry about other people’s expectations for him as the son of a former NFL player. Howard Cross III blazed his own path in football to end up with the Irish.

Hey Dog HEY!

Doing our best to make sure you know which one of man’s best friends match each Notre Dame player.

Swedish Vallhund

The Swedish Vallhund breed dates back to the 8th or 9th century. These dogs were initially bred for herding cows. Despite its short legs, this dog breed typically is very athletic, dependable, and intelligent. Similar to the Vallhund, Cross is able to use his lack of length to his advantage by using leverage and sound technique to defeat larger offensive lineman in the trenches.

Photo by Shawn Ehlers/WireImage

2019 Outlook

There are several paths that Cross III could follow this season. If the coaches decide they want to keep Cross at the strongside defensive end, the position he was initially recruited at, a redshirt is likely for him due to the number of bodies ahead of him on the depth chart. The two players who figure to receive the bulk of the snaps at this position are Khalid Kareem and Ade Ogundeji. Another possibility is that Cross may be moved inside to beef up the rotation at the 3-technique tackle. The only healthy bodies at this position currently are Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Jayson Ademilola. Freshman Hunter Spears is working his way back from a torn ACL and probably will not be ready for game action until sometime in October. Brian Polian made the comment after Cross III signed with the Irish in December, “Howard Cross can be a good defensive end that when it comes to third-and-long, you can kick inside and now becomes a mismatch on a guard one-on-one pass rushing.” Cross could fill the role of 3rd string defensive tackle and provide 10-12 snaps per game to take pressure off of Tagovailoa-Amosa and Ademilola. In this scenario, a year of eligibility could be preserved if Cross III only plays 4 games, which probably hinges on the ability of Spears to return as anticipated. Another possibility is that Brian Kelly burns the redshirt and allows Cross III to play the entire year if he can be a disruptive force in his limited role.

YouTube Hot Fire

Cross III could pair with NaNa Osafo-Mensah next year to form the replacements for Khalid Kareem and Ade Ogundeji at the strongside defensive end position. While Howard Cross III may not be as flashy of a pass rusher as fellow freshman Isaiah Foskey or Osafo-Mensah, he is the type of lineman needed to continue building quality depth along the defensive line to rival other elite programs in the country.