Four departing Irish players to play in football all-star games

Four members of the 2011 University of Notre Dame football team will play in three postseason all-star games over the next two weekends.

Safety Harrison Smith will participate in the Senior Bowl, cornerbacks Robert Blanton and Gary Gray were invited to the East-West Shrine Game and offensive guard Trevor Robinson will play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Smith will play for the North team at the Senior Bowl and will be coached by Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and the Vikings coaching staff. The 63rd Senior Bowl is set for 4 p.m. EST on Saturday, Jan. 28, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The game and all practices will air on NFL Network.

The lone team captain for 2011, Smith led the secondary and ranked second on the team with 90 tackles and paced the Irish with 10 pass breakups in his senior season. He totaled 309 career tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, three and a half sacks, 28 pass breakups and seven interceptions in his Notre Dame career. Smith is the only player in school history to record at least 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass breakups.

Blanton and Gray will be teammates one more time on the East squad at the East-WestShrine Game. The Irish duo will be coached by former NFL and college football head coach Bobby Ross. The 87th annual East-West Shrine Game starts at 4 p.m. EST on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The game will be shown on NFL Network. Blanton will don jersey No. 11 whileGray will wear his usual No. 4.

Blanton had his best season at Notre Dame in 2011 as he set career highs with 70 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Blanton ranked third on the team in tackles, second in tackles for loss and pass breakups (six) and tied for team-high honors with two interceptions.

Gray started every game for the second season in a row and ranked fourth on the team with a career-best 67 tackles. His two interceptions tied with Blanton for tops on the team and Gray’s five pass breakups ranked fifth on the Irish.

Robinson will participate in the inaugural NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and will play for the American team coached by former NFL head coach Tom Flores. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. EST on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Robinson will wear No. 64 in the game.

A starter in 40 of the 48 games he appeared in, Robinson opened at offensive guard in the last 37 games he played for the Irish. He was just the fifth freshman to start on Notre Dame’s offensive line since 1972. Robinson was the veteran leader of the offensive line in 2011 that allowed Notre Dame to gain 4.8 yards per carry and allow only 17 sacks on 473 pass attempts.

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