Nov. 16, 2017
Notre Dame-Navy: Last Hurrah for Seniors
By John Heisler
Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz used to say in jest that he dreaded the last game at Notre Dame Stadium each year because the seniors playing there for the final time couldn’t see who to block through their tears.
Current Irish coach Brian Kelly is counting on this week’s opponent, a 6-3 Navy team, keeping the attention of his 2017 squad. Yet he knows there will be plenty of emotion involved.
“There are going to be so many different things going through my head,”
says Irish captain Greer Martini. “But I think that one memorable moment
definitely was in my freshman year when we beat Stanford, the last-second
pass to (tight end Ben) Koyack. That's one of those moments that kind of
stands out the most to me.
“I think it's definitely going to feel different (Saturday). But as a player I want to leave that stadium playing the best game I've ever played as a senior, just go out on the right note. So you gotta channel all that emotion that goes into running out, senior, family, all that kind of stuff. Kind of getting ready to play.
“I think the legacy of the senior class was to get Notre Dame on the right track again. Obviously after a 4-8 season it was our goal to kind of bring back the prestige to Notre Dame. And I think that as seniors we want to finish out strong--the rest of the team does, too. It’s about continuing on to the next years and kind of creating a culture at Notre Dame that's going to last.”
Senior offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey is in the same camp, heading down the tunnel for the final time.
“It's kind of hard to believe that five years is up. Tough. It's bittersweet. I know I've put everything I had into this place, in Notre Dame and this team and this university. And it's a little bittersweet to think I'm not going to be able to come back and play in Notre Dame Stadium anymore after this week. We've had a hell of a season. It's been an emotional roller coaster, and I want to make sure we go out--the rest of the senior class, not just myself--and get a win against Navy this week.
“I think I'm going to remember this season as a whole. I think that coming from where we came from and the state of the program and where it was last year and being a captain of that team, and then being a captain of this team. I mean the amount of turnaround that we were able to have, it's something that's very, very memorable.
“And I take a lot of pride in being able to be a part of it. The main thing I'm really going to take away from this place is the relationships that I've built. I've made the best friends in the world. I've been mentored by some of the greatest coaches and other players that you could ever ask for. And I think that anybody who really knows this place knows that the best part about it is the people that you get to meet. That's the thing I'll be talking about for the rest of my life, not just the next 10 to 15 years.”
McGlinchey has avoided thoughts about what the pregame senior player introductions Saturday will be like:
“You know what, I've been trying not to think about it too much. It's definitely going to be hard for me. I think a lot of people can attest to this, that I love this place with everything I got, and I've always worked and wanted to put my best effort and play forward for this place, for my teammates, for my coaches and just Notre Dame in general. It's something that I'll always treasure.
“I consider myself the luckiest man in the world to be able to play
football at this awesome place here. And it's going to be tough. I don't
know if I'll be able to think about it right in the tunnel because I have a
job to do. But afterwards, when we’re singing that alma mater for the last
time in the stadium, I'll probably be a little bit of a mess.
“It's the last time I'll run out of that tunnel, and at least I'll have my mom and dad on the field. I'll give my mom a hug; she'll settle me down a little bit. And the rest is just a football game. It's hard to think about other things when you got a football game going on in front of you.
“I've never had a problem with focusing on what my task is supposed to be and never let any outside forces other than the game affect what I'm thinking about. And I'm going to do the same thing on Saturday, and then afterwards, like I said, I'll probably take time to reflect on what happened and try to soak it all in.”
Yet another Irish captain, rover Drue Tranquill, will be part of those senior introductions, even though previous injuries give him the potential option to return to the Irish for 2018.
“I think what I've been through at Notre Dame, just with having two knee injuries and kind of everything I've gone through--to just go out of that tunnel and walk out on that field is a special moment each and every opportunity I get. You never know when your last snap is.
“And so this Saturday will be a little different, obviously with my parents being down on the field and getting to run out to them. And I think it'll be kind of a culmination of everything I've accomplished to this point, and I'll try not to cry, man.
“This thing means a lot to me. And so, yeah, it'll be special for sure.”
Meanwhile Kelly knows his Irish will need to see through the emotion to deal with a talented opponent:
“First of all, it's about getting back to our traits, and you have to have
an incredible attention to detail when you play Navy and their offense. I
think everybody knows quite well how prolific they are and how difficult
they are to stop. They do things offensively that teams each and every week
struggle to defend.
“And the other thing you have to do is you have to beat a lot of one-on-one blocks. You have to play physical. You have to be able to get off blocks. You have to be able to make tackles against a very good and well disciplined football team, a team that fights for four quarters. They've won close games. They manage the clock very well. They play smart football. It will be a great challenge for us.
“Offensively, we have to be able to score. Last year, obviously, we scored, but we didn't score touchdowns. You have to score touchdowns. You have to finish off your drives. You have to be extremely efficient, and that's what their offense forces you to do--to be extremely efficient on offense.
“And we've got to find a way to take the football away. We didn't do that last week. We've got to get the football, take it away, and revert back to some of the things that we were doing defensively. If we can get some turnovers and get some points relative to touchdowns instead of field goals, then we'll put ourselves in a much better position.”
Kelly believes it’s fitting that his team will close the year wearing uniforms that pay tribute to former Irish coach Knute Rockne, based on the standards Rockne teams set nearly a century ago:
“That standard is set by the jerseys and the uniforms that we'll be wearing. We'll be wearing Rockne uniforms. There isn't a better name that you could be wearing that has set the standard of excellence for Notre Dame football. So getting back to that standard of excellence--it certainly is what we've talked about relative to refocusing our football team on playing to a standard that we had set this year.”
Here are details of various introductions and presentations that will take place during the Notre Dame-Navy game Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium:
-- The national colors will be presented by three of Indiana's leading government officials-- Senators Joe Donnelly, a Notre Dame graduate, and Todd Young, a Naval Academy alumnus, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.
--Twenty-six senior members of the 2017 Irish football team will be introduced before the game: K Sam Kohler, TE Christopher Bury, WR Grant Hammann, DL Ryan Kilander, WR Keenan Centlivre, OL Sam Bush, DL Pete Mokwuah, OL Jimmy Byrne, WR Cam Smith, DL Jonathan Bonner, P Tyler Newsome, DB Nick Watkins, TE Nic Weishar, DL Jay Hayes, OL Alex Bars, OL Sam Mustipher, OL Hunter Bivin, QB Montgomery VanGorder, DL Andrew Trumbetti, TE Durham Smythe, WR Austin Webster, LB Greer Martini, LB Nyles Morgan, OL Quenton Nelson, LB Drue Tranquill and OL Mike McGlinchey.
--The Presidential Team Irish Award goes to the Notre Dame Care Program. The Care Program is a cross-campus collaboration designed to help students who seek support for issues related to overall well-being, mental-health related support and academic assistance. A team comprised of 17 members of faculty and staff from 10 departments across the University, this group works with both administrative and academic units to facilitate this program. At the core of the program is the Care Consultants who worked with 675 students during the 2016-17 school year, and through their marketing efforts increased student self-referrals from 13 students in 2013 to 87 students in 2016-17. The Care Consultants work collaboratively with the academy and the broader members of the Care Program team and recently developed a readmission orientation for all returning students and their families, to be more welcoming and inclusive.
--The presentation to Lt. Cmdr. William Dorwart recognizes a Roman Catholic priest who served aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and retired Sept. 22, a full 50 years after he first enlisted. After completing his first enlistment, Dorwart enrolled at the University of Notre Dame where he completed his Master of Divinity degree and in 1980 was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. In 1985 Dorwart accepted a commission in the Navy as a chaplain. Over the course of six years he served with the Marines in Okinawa, with sailors in Subic Bay and aboard the carrier Midway, an assignment that included a deployment during the first Gulf War. The Congregation of Holy Cross called for him in 1991 to return to full-time duty with the church. Leaving active duty as a lieutenant commander, Dorwart ultimately had to resign his commission because his commitment to the church didn’t leave time for his reservist duties. In 2008 Dorwart, while working at the University of Portland, became inspired by the troop surge into Afghanistan and put on his uniform once more at age 57. At age 62, he needed an age waiver to continue serving on active duty—and the Navy agreed, as long as he was willing to deploy aboard the amphibious assault ship Makin Island. Dorwart now plans to return to his congregation at Notre Dame.
--Senior student managers, athletic trainers, video staff, recruiting staff and nutrition staff introductions will include: Managers Garrett Fisher, Ashley DeJonge and Travis Tredway; Video Assistants Joseph Murphy and Paul Stevenson; Athletic Trainers Alex Acuna, James Fox, Patrick Lawler, Kelsey Lynch, Chris Silveri, Emily Schueppert and Kyle Sommerfield;Nutrition Staff Cristina Burnett and Grey Dietz; Recruiting Staff Ashleigh Cruz, Emily Han, Mary Grace Heller, Kacey Hudson, Coady Keller, Katarina Kurtts, Luke Malec, Nate Patterson, Nora Pinder, Niklas Valdiserri, Avonni Ward and McKenna Yuhas Schmidbauer; Football Office Staff Noah Sarkey.
--The Notre Dame All-Faculty Team recognition goes to Rory McVeigh, professor of sociology, director of the Center for the Study of Social Movements and chair of the department of sociology. McVeigh chaired the department of sociology from 2007–2016, leading it as it skyrocketed in the national rankings. As director of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Social Movements, he has helped establish one of the nation’s top programs in that subfield. McVeigh’s own research has reshaped how scholars understand the causes of political extremism, political polarization and social inequality. Currently, he and two colleagues from the sociology department are co-editors of the American Sociological Review, the top academic journal in the discipline.
--Notre Dame senior cheerleader introductions include: Joseph Fennessy, Thomas Hellios, Maxwell Walker, Haley Stronczek, Jeremy Trevvett, Ellison Dobbs, Aaron Lopiccolo, Gregory Lupica, Harrison Schurr, Megan Gafvert, Francesca Prospero, Madeleine Ginty, Jubril Dawodu and Jack Harris.
--The flyover recognition will thank the US Navy aircrew from Saturday’s pregame flyover by the VFA-213 "Blacklions." Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of Naval operations and the senior ranking pilot in the US Navy, will join Capt. Mark Prokopius to present a Notre Dame football helmet signed by Irish coach Brian Kelly on behalf of the University of Notre Dame to pilots Lt. Greg Blok, Lt. Brice Johnson and Lt. Andrew Wolfe.
--Notre Dame will pay tribute to a 38-year veteran of the United States Navy who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam--retired Lt. Cmdr. Franklin Franco. He’s the brother of retired Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s professor Winifred Farquhar and is still going strong at age 98.
--The Notre Dame student/military recognition will feature Lt. Nathan Miller, U.S. Naval Academy graduate and current Notre Dame faculty member, student and active duty Naval officer. Commissioned from the Naval Academy in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering, Lt. Miller attended nuclear power school and then reported to the USS Maine, a ballistic missile nuclear submarine. He completed four patrols during his three years aboard the Maine and in 2015 was named the boat’s junior officer of the year. He’s now teaching naval engineering and weapons systems in Notre Dame’s Naval ROTC program while also working toward a master’s degree through the University’s ESTEEM program.