Sept. 17, 2000
by Jane E. Pater
If you've ever wondered what a Notre Dame varsity athlete does in his or her spare time, then meet Chad DeBolt. The junior defensive midfielder for the Irish lacrosse team spends his fall semester playing football for the Irish.
In the busy life of a Notre Dame student, fitting in one varsity sport can be tough enough, but DeBolt has managed to master the seemingly impossible.
Wearing No. 24 for the Irish on Saturday afternoons this fall, the 6-10, 210-pound product of Waterloo, N.Y., is according to some fans, "one of the guys who runs down the field like a madman on kickoffs." He is following a dream he had before he ever made the decision to come to Notre Dame and play lacrosse.
"Since high school it was my intention to play football in college," DeBolt says. "I knew I wasn't big enough to be recruited to play Division I football, but I knew I would have the opportunity to play lacrosse. When I came on my recruiting trip for lacrosse, I told Coach Corrigan (the Irish men's lacrosse coach) that I wanted to play both sports, and he was very supportive."
Football was the first sport DeBolt took a liking to when he began playing in the fourth grade, while his lacrosse career did not get started until he entered the ninth grade. When asked which sport he enjoys playing most, he offers no certain answer to the question, which comes up regularly in conversation with family and friends.
"I think that whatever I'm playing at the time is my favorite. Football was in my heart when I was younger," DeBolt reflects, "but lacrosse was the one that offered me the chance to come to Notre Dame. It's difficult to make a choice, because I really love them both."
Coming from a small town in upstate New York where Notre Dame alumni frequently talk about the mystique of their alma mater, DeBolt always knew that Notre Dame was where he would end up attending school. Turning down offers to several Ivy League schools, the affable DeBolt has always felt comfortable with his decision to come to Notre Dame.
As a freshman he only participated in lacrosse, but spent the summer of 1998 with the Irish football team learning the system and conditioning himself to compete for a position on the squad.
"As a freshman," DeBolt recalls, "I wanted to come in and get accustomed to school, get my grades set and just get used to playing one sport (lacrosse) at the college level." Focusing on just lacrosse his first year proved to be beneficial as he was one of just two Irish rookies to start all 14 games.
As a sophomore, DeBolt practiced with both the football and lacrosse teams during the fall season. Since he did not dress for football games on Saturdays, he used that as his day of rest and played with the lacrosse team during their scrimmages on Sunday afternoons. During lacrosse season in the spring, he did risk any chance of injury and exclusively concentrated on playing the one sport.
A civil engineering major, one of the most intense curriculums at Notre Dame, its hard to image that DeBolt has time for much of anything besides practice and studying, but he does. The key for him is how he manages his time.
"It's all about time management," he says. "There's not a lot of time to fool around, but there is still time to relax and have fun, too."
During the fall when he is playing football and not practicing with the lacrosse team, DeBolt still manages to maintain close ties with his friends on the squad even though he doesn't see them on the practice field on a regular basis. Living with three of those teammates off-campus helps him maintain the ties.
"The lacrosse team is going down to Florida to scrimmage Navy the day before the football game in Orlando," DeBolt laughs, "and some of the guys (on the lacrosse team) think I should try to play in both games."
While he will not be able to do double duty in October, DeBolt's passion for both lacrosse and football continues to grow as the result of some thrilling contests. The lacrosse team's 15-13 upset win over No. 5 Loyola in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in May holds special importance for him.
"One of my most memorable sporting moments was beating Loyola in the NCAAs," DeBolt says. "They had really handed it to us during the regular season (a 12-2 loss), but we got revenge when it really counted. That game was such a special moment for me and all the guys on the team."
Notre Dame's near upset of top-ranked Nebraska qualified as one of DeBolt's most exciting moments on the football field, but he is not looking back as he knows that there are many more games for the Irish to play. Most important on his agenda is recording that first tackle which will officially earn him a spot on the stat sheet.
While he continues his efforts towards that goal, DeBolt's special cheering section always will remain faithful as it does every weekend in the fall and spring. Family members religiously make the trek to South Bend, Ind., from New York in their RVs decorated with Irish lacrosse and football emblems, to see watch and cheer for him in a dream that began nearly a decade ago.
While few student-athletes have the opportunity to represent Notre Dame on the playing field in one sport, thanks to years of hard work and dedication, Chad DeBolt is realizing a goal he set long ago Ñ wearing an Irish uniform in two different sports.