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Notre Dame Throwback Thursday: Athlete of the Year, Dick Arrington

A chance to see beyond the athlete into the man.

Boston College v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When I interview former Notre Dame Fighting Irish student-athletes I love to listen to them tell their stories of how they got to Notre Dame (how ND got on their radar), what their experience was like at Notre Dame, and then where their lives take them post Notre Dame. There are several themes that seem to run through all of these stories, but one of the most important ones is the term they used to describes themselves when they were at Notre Dame; student-athlete.

I live in a small town. Well, it’s a small town to me, population ten thousand. There are a lot of vintage stores and flea markets in the area I live in, and the other day while I was looking around in one such vintage store, I found a copy of The Scholastic from May 28, 1965. And yes, I bought it, for $2. The main reason I bought it was because it was the last issue of that school year, which happened to be the year my dad graduated from Notre Dame. The second reason, was to read the story that was pictured on the front cover, “Dick Arrington, Athlete of the Year.”

What I most enjoyed about the story was how he makes note of the fact that he could have gone to college anywhere to play sports, but he wanted to go somewhere that he’d also get an education. I love the fact that even as the decades have passed, the term student-athlete, when used to describe Notre Dame athletes is just that. They are students first, and athletes second.

Here is an excerpt from the story on Dick Arrington in that May 1965 edition of The Scholastic, I hope you enjoy it as well.

Athlete of the Year, by Mike Bradley and Tom Bettag

“I really didn’t have one particular college I wanted to come to after high school. I had known some graduates before me who had gotten athletic scholarships to different colleges and did nothing but play sports. That didn’t make much sense to me. If I spent four years just playing football, I would have nothing when those four years were over. If I spent those four years working in a factory for $4,000 a year, I could earn $16,000 to help my parents along. If I were going to go to college I had to get something out of it. So I came to Notre Dame. You hear a lot about athletes giving to their schools, but I can never forget that the most important thing is that I profit from Notre Dame.”

Dick Arrington is not one to say very much, but when he does speak, he is worth listening to. If he speaks jokingly, he is always pleasant and relaxing. If he speaks to answer a question, he goes out of his way to be helpful. But if you catch him in one of those rare moments when he explains his thinking, you have a chance to see beyond the athlete into the man. Arrington’s words are always considerate and humble. He prefers not to speak rather than to seem to sound off, criticize, or argue. He’d rather not talk sports for fear of boring someone with his own specialty. He is totally ill at ease when talking about himself. Before he has gone very far towards answering a question about himself, he rambles in his deliberate manner of speaking to something a little more objective.

“When people ask me how I can keep up with studies and play two sports, I tell them I don’t know. It’s very hard for athletes around here to keep up with solid courses and also play. Yet a person needs sports in his life if he is going to be well rounded. “You have to have knowledge in the first place, but it will do you no good unless you learn to work yourself hard and not quit just because you are tired or sore.

“Besides sports and studies, you also have to have social activity, a chance to develop your own personality. It is something we don’t emphasize here as much as the other two, and it is hard to find the spare time, but without all three you can’t really expect to be well rounded.” His wrestling teammates often tell of his bringing books along on trips to study in the evening when the rest of the team is just relaxing. If he is not away on a team trip, rare is the night when he cannot be found studying either in his room or in the library.

Cheers & GO IRISH!