Tom Zbikowski #36 SS
Height: 5-11 Weight: 200 Age: 29
Born: 5/22/1985 Park Ridge , IL
College: Notre Dame
Experience: 6th season
High School: Buffalo Grove HS [IL]
Selected By: Baltimore Ravens
Pick (Overall): 23 (86)
The classic blue-collar worker, Tom Zbikowski filled a variety of roles for the Irish, especially his most important one -- emotional leader of a young defense.
In what turned into one of the worst seasons ever by a Notre Dame team, he guided a secondary that ranked second in the nation, allowing only 161.58 yards per game in 2007.
Zbikowski, a professional boxer, has worn many hats during his time with the Irish. He has excelled playing inside the box, but has also proven to be a capable punt returner. With his natural hands and nose for the ball, he holds a rare distinction for having scored on an interception return, punt return and fumble return during his career. He has also returned kickoffs and saw action briefly as a tailback during his final campaign.
By the time he hung up his Fighting Irish uniform, the two-time team captain scored seven career touchdowns (three punt returns, two interception returns and two fumble returns). He is tied for most career punt returns for a touchdown in school history (along with Tim Brown, Nick Rassas, Allen Rossum and Ricky Watters), in addition to being tied for first in career fumble returns for a touchdown (Tony Driver).
Zbikowski tied for fifth in interception returns for a touchdown. He holds the school career record for tackles by a defensive back, becoming the seventh player in school annals to register 300 tackles (165 solo). He would go on to start all 48 games he played in at Notre Dame.
At Buffalo Grove High School, Zbikowski earned USA Today first-team All-American honors and was named Chicago Area Player of the Year as a senior by the Chicago Sun-Times. He ranked 11th on the Detroit Free Press Best of the Midwest team, rated 29th on the ESPN list of the nation's top 100 players and was named Gatorade Player of the Year for Illinois.
Zbikowskie was named to the Illinois All-State team by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Champaign News-Gazette. He was selected Great Northwest Defensive Player of the Year by the Pioneer Press, as he set Buffalo Grove career records for points scored (274), touchdowns (45), rushing attempts (406), rushing yards (2,013) and passing attempts (484).
A three-year starter at quarterback and safety who also returned punts and kickoffs, Zbikowski played defensive back in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, making five tackles and breaking up two passes. As a senior in 2002, he threw for 1,382 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 1,287 yards and 23 scores (Buffalo Grove single-season record), adding 41 tackles and three interceptions at safety. He was a sprinter on the school track team, finishing sixth in the 100 meters at the Illinois state prep track championships in 2002. He set eleven school records in track and field, including the 100 meters at 10.4 seconds.
Zbikowski was a nationally-ranked boxer who has competed in the Golden Gloves program since age nine, achieving a 60-13 amateur record. A Silver Gloves national finalist from 1998-2000, he was named Regional Boxer of the Year. He made his professional boxing debut on June 10, 2006, in Madison Square Garden in New York City, knocking out Robert Bell in 49 seconds.
Zbikowski enrolled at Notre Dame in 2003, playing on the scout team as a strong safety after turning down scholarship offers from Arizona State, Boston College, Nebraska and Iowa. He took over strong safety chores in 2004, going on to start his next 48 consecutive games. He ranked fourth on the team with 70 tackles (37 solo), as he caused two fumbles and recovered another for a 75-yard touchdown return, adding 22 yards on an interception return and a pass deflection.
As a sophomore, Zbikowski took over punt return duties, ranking 13th in the nation with 379 yards and two scores on 27 attempts (14-yard average). He returned two interceptions for touchdowns, gaining 136 yards on five interceptions while breaking up four other passes. He caused a fumble and delivered 71 tackles (42 solo) with a sack.
Zbikowski struggled early in 2006 with left shoulder and neck strains that forced him to miss the Stanford clash. He was a Walter Camp All-American and served as one of three team captains, as he totaled 79 tackles (44 solo). He caused a fumble that he recovered for a 25-yard score and deflected two passes. He averaged nine yards on 16 punt returns, including one for a touchdown and had five kickoff returns for a 21.7-yard average.
As a senior, Zbikowski was a Thorpe Award semifinalist. He registered a career-high 80 tackles (42 solo) with a sack, as the team captain caused three fumbles and recovered two others. He picked off two passes and returned 23 punts for 234 yards (10.2-yard average).
In 48 games at Notre Dame, Zbikowski became the seventh player in school annals to record 300 tackles (165 solo) in a career, adding two sacks for minus-18 yards and six stops for losses of 25 yards. He caused seven fumbles and recovered four others, returning two for a total of 100 yards and a pair of scores. He deflected eight passes and intercepted eight others for 199 yards in returns (24.9-yard average) and two touchdowns.
On special teams, he gained 757 yards on 66 punt returns (11.5-yard average), including three touchdowns. He also returned six kickoffs for 97 yards (16.2 avg) and carried three times for no gain.