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Irish Insights

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"Around 20 Questions" with... former linebacker Abdel Banda

Welcome to the latest installation of "Around 20 Questions," a feature hoping to become a regular fixture on Insights. The hope is to do a few of these a week with the tentative schedule being Mondays -- non-revenue athletes; Wednesday -- an athletic alumni; Thursday -- football/men's basketball/women's basketball player or coach. If there is anyone you want us to talk to or any tips on who inside the wacky Notre Dame world might be a good, pithy interview subject, drop an e-mail to mrothstein@jg.net. Abdel Banda played linebacker at Notre Dame in 2004-05 before blowing out his knee, ending his career. He graduated from the school in May after Notre Dame honored his scholarship despite his injury Irish Insights: What are you up to now?

Abdel Banda: "Right now it's learning. I'm in New York City, hired by an investment bank (Sandler O'Neill). I need to take a bunch of tests to get certified so I've been doing a lot of analyst training. I'm an analyst, just learning how to value banks and I have to pass the Series 7 and Series 63, which would make me registered to give financial advice. It's really just been work, work, work. You know how it is, it's a rat race here on Wall Street. It's starting out, trying to learn the game."

II: How'd you get involved in investment banking? Is that what you always wanted to do? Did you just fall into it?

AB: "I was a finance major in school and so growing up in this area (New Jersey), if you're a finance major, Wall Street is the game. When I went to Notre Dame I had an interest in business and I always saw myself moving back to New York and someone asked me to pick a major and I picked finance. I went to Delbarton and most of the kids I went to school with, their parents were successful Wall Street guys so growing up the symbols of success I saw on a daily basis in high school were doing well on Wall Street. And I wanted to do well."

II: Do you think you would have done investment banking if you hadn't gotten hurt?

AB: "I think at some point I probably would have. Everyone stops playing football at some point. But I don't know. If I had a 15-year career and made Ray Lewis type of money, maybe not. You know. Maybe I would invest in something and chill but I think that realistically, finance and business, I've always been very business-minded. I enjoy the challenge of starting something and watching it develop and become successful. I always kind of an inclination to that. I think I know enough to be dangerous at it."

II: What was the last year like for you at Notre Dame, when you weren't able to play?

AB: "Terrible. Terrible. Hands-down terrible. Absolutely terrible. It was one of the worst years of my life. I say that facetiously because in the same year, too, I became very spiritual and I really kind of found myself. In the grand scheme of things, life is not terrible. I'm going to Notre Dame, Coach (Charlie) Weis still honored my scholarship and in the grand scheme of things life was not terrible. But, for me it was difficult if you play college athletics, especially on that level, it becomes a means of identification. That's how you are identified, that's how you identify yourself. The people I hang out with, spend 40, 50 hours a week with, guys like Mo (Crum), Terrail (Lambert), guys I formed a camaraderie with and then to go from not being able to see those guys all week because they have to get ready for a game. To watch them on TV, win or lose, freshman year we all came in and were all redshirts and being a redshirt is not fun and what makes you be able to deal with that adversity and get through it is the dream of at some point it's going to be my turn to lead. It's going to be my turn to be the guy to lead this team. That's all we talked about as redshirts. We'd go out to dinner after freshman year practice. Terrail Lambert, freshman year, that Michigan State interception for the touchdown, when he did that it was like deja vu because since freshman year I heard him describe that moment exactly how it played out."

II: Wow.

AB: "When I get a pick, I'm going to do this, they aren't going to be able to catch me and I'm going to cut back. I heard him talk about it so much that when I saw it, it was like deja vu. Stuff like that, for me to not be able to be there and share that moment with them, for me, that was very difficult. Extremely, extremely difficult. It's, I don't even think I'm still over it. Injuries are one thing. You fall out of favor and don't get a shot to play and graduate, that's one thing. But for me, to think that, with one twist of a knee it was taken away from me at a time when we were getting ready to graduate two senior linebackers, it was basically me, Maurice and Joe Brockington. So the opportunity was there. To not be able to enjoy that moment because of an injury, it was difficult."

II: You mentioned the spirituality. How'd you end up getting through it?

AB: "Man, am I through it? First of all, when I blew out my knee, it was in camp and I was sharing a room with Mo. I was obviously very emotional, crying and all that. Right from the onset, Mo grabbed his Bible and is flipping through it, reading the verses his grandmother used to read to him in moments of adversity. Right then and there, he said 'Look, God doesn't do anything without reason. He has a plan. His plan might be for you not to play football. His plan might be for you to sit this year out and rehab and come back and be stronger. Whatever it is you've got to pray and Thank God for where he's brought you and ask him for guidance.' So right from the beginning, it's easier said than done but from talking to myself, from putting things in perspective, if you have a narrow focus on life, it's very easy for stuff like that to derail you. So what I try to do is have a broad focus on life. I blew out my knee but I didn't have a Kevin Everett. I blew out my knee but I'm going to a good school, I got good grades, I'm going to school for free. I'm going to get a good job. I'm healthy. My family's healthy. I happen to be very ambitious and business-minded and I thought God's trying to tell you to put more energy to that. It was just having a broad focus and trying to be happy for them. Sometimes you'd watch the games and get selfish, I don't want to watch the game, it hurts because I'm not on the field. But I started cheering for my teammates, being happy for them and enjoying the game that way. It was tough."

Previous "Around 20 Questions:" women's soccer player Brittany Bock; wide receiver Golden Tate; former linebacker Darrell "Flash" Gordon; volleyball player Christina Kaelin.

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