Sept. 11, 2000
by Tom Kolbe
When senior defensive tackle Andy Wisne arrived as a freshman at the University of Notre Dame three years ago, he would have never imagined the course he was about to take. It was a ride that consisted of despair and dejection, along with renewed confidence, hope and the will to overcome adversity.
Away from his home of Tulsa, Okla., for the first time and sitting on the sidelines the early weeks ofhis rookie season, Wisne had his doubts. But luckily for him, Wisne had the luxury of having someone close to help him, both on and off the field. His older brother, Jerry, was a junior at Notre Dame and a starter on the team's offensive line.
"I was really lucky to have Jerry here to help me through those tough times when I first arrived at Notre Dame," Wisne says.
"We are really close and he told me just to hang in there and things would work out for the best."
After missing the first four weeks of the season and falling behind the others who had been in camp the whole time, Wisne ended up sitting out the entire 1997 season. As a sophomore, Wisne finally stepped onto the field in a backup role, seeing action in four games. He had four tackles for the Irish, including two against both Michigan State and Baylor, showing head coach Bob Davie a sign of things to come.
Last season, Wisne showed much of that promise as he played in 10 games, recording 12 tackles and two sacks. Against Kansas, he recorded three tackles, a sack and caused a fumble which led to an Irish touchdown. Although he posted good numbers, adversity played another card as Wisne had to battle through a number of injuries including a knee contusion and stretched ligaments in his shoulder.
"I have been constantly pushing myself through the adversity," says Wisne.
"Last year, I got to play a lot, but not many people know that I was injured much of last season. In the Kansas and Michigan games, I could hardly move my knee because the pain was so bad from the contusion. I also had permanent tendinitis in my groin and stretched ligaments in my shoulder that I had surgically repaired at the end of the season."
With the down time off the field Wisne has encountered throughout his college years, he has never been short on people to lend him a helping hand. The 6-3, 272 pounder is quick to point out when he needs someone to turn to, he looks to God and family.
Wisne's parents moved to South Bend when Andy decided to attend Notre Dame. The decision to move was made easier when Wisne's older sister, Colette, and her husband moved to South Bend. At the time, Jerry was a junior at Notre Dame and it became a move that put the entire Wisne family back together.
"I am a real family guy," says Wisne.
"I wanted to be here when my parents moved and now that Jerry is right next door in Chicago playing professionally for the Bears, it has allowed my family to continue being an integral part of my life."
After having all the family support along with his great faith in God, Wisne met a fellow student at Notre Dane named Ann Miller, who Wisne says gives him ultimate strength.
"I really believe God brought me to her," says Wisne.
"She has helped me so much through the tough times. With her being from Georgia and me coming from Oklahoma, I am used to that Southern way of life. Her family is also great and they, too, have helped me very much over the years."
Dealing with adversity and the fear of failure have been the most challenging things for Wisne. While becoming mentally focused, he has matured greatly from his freshman year. Wisne admits the toughest task he faces is living up to his own expectations for himself.
"I consider myself a perfectionist," says Wisne.
"When I make a mistake and someone points it out, that just increases the amount of criticism I place on myself."
While Wisne will be the last person to tell you his problems, he will be the first person to tell you that he does not want anyone to feel sorry for him.
"Not many people know about the secret things in my life," says Wisne. "But I do. The fact is I have overcome so much."
While Wisne is motivated by God, his family and his girlfriend in the game of life, he lets out a great deal of his emotion on the football field.
"I have so many feelings on the football field," says Wisne.
"I think about all the people who said I could not do something, the times I was injured. I play off sheer emotion."
While Andy Wisne may be a name that is a bit unfamiliar at this point for Irish fans, it may be a name you will want to remember. With Wisne heading into the 2000 season as a senior and healthy for the first time in his career, he has matured in his prior three seasons and is in position to make an impact on the defensive line this season.
"I feel that when I got in and played last year, I really showed what I can do," says Wisne.
"Jerry really taught me what it takes to be successful at this level. I am hoping to show everybody, including all the scouts, there are a lot of people on this team who can play in the NFL. I hope to be one of them."
Some people may say he is not up to the task, but it is those people who will drive Andy Wisne to a successful senior season.