Chris Zorich, Notre Dame's All-America nose tackle and the school's most valuable player in the Orange Bowl, discovered his mother's body when he returned home from Miami.

After Notre Dame's Orange Bowl loss on New Year's Day, Zorich made his daily call to his mother at her apartment on Chicago's southeast side.He said he loved her and would see her on Wednesday. That was the last time he would talk to Zora Zorich, a 59-year-old daughter of Yugoslavian immigrants who was plagued with health problems and got by on a disability check of about $200 a month.

When he got home, Zorich had to smash open the apartment door before finding his mother dead on the floor.

Police said she died of natural causes, sometime after watching the Orange Bowl on television.

Zora Zorich raised Chris without a father and brought him through some rough times in a gritty neighborhood entwined with street gangs.

She got around on a bicycle, making her easy prey for muggers, who got her three or four times, most recently a year ago.

"She's the type that if you handed her a glass of water, she would look at it as if it was the finest champagne there is," said John Potocki, who coached Zorich at Chicago Vocational High School. "She would appreciate it, thank you and say how great it is. And that's how she raised Chris."