November 17, 2001 changed my life not only forever, but for the better.
As I walked the hallowed grounds of the University of Notre Dame campus with my grandfather before the woeful Irish under Bob Davie prepped for their Senior Day festivities against Midshipmen of Navy in front of 80,795 fans on a chilly South Bend afternoon, I couldn’t really process what was happening as a 9-year-old surrounded by a sea of humanity.
The Irish won the game — a 34-16 drubbing of the Midshipmen — but as happy as I was about the result, it was everything that came along with the game (plus a friendly wager the next season) that turned me into a Golden Domer for life.
Gerome Sapp’s 39-yard scoop-and-score was followed by my grandfather trying to get numerous band members who we were sitting directly behind in the right corner of the north endzone of Notre Dame Stadium to lift me up for the traditional post-touchdown push-ups in the crowd. I refused, which was a decision I would later regret in life because going up for the push-ups always looks like so much fun.
Shane Walton, a soccer stud-turned-cult hero in my household, picked off a pass in the contest, leading to my grandfather shouting, “That kid’s got one hell of a future in front of him!”
Walton’s swat on a two-point conversion attempt in the Irish’s 25-23 victory over Michigan the following September officially sealed my fandom after I won a $20 bet with my father that the Irish would take down his beloved Wolverines, or as many Irish fans like to call them, the Skunk Bears.
“Since when did you become a Notre Dame fan?” my dad asked a couple weeks later when the Irish pummeled Stanford, 31-7.
“Since they won me 20 bucks from you,” I replied with a big smile.
That November day was capped with a lesson on Ara Parseghian’s greatness from my grandfather, the Four Horsemen, Chris Zorich, how Aaron Taylor took a photo with me as a baby (yes, I didn’t even know this photo existed until this point) after a Blue-Gold scrimmage, and a trip to Burger King right off the Indiana East-West Toll Road.
A kid couldn’t ask for much more, right?
Fast forward almost 18 years later and that same kid is joining the staff at SB Nation’s One Foot Down website, where everything Notre Dame athletics is covered by a great group of people. It’s not the fanciest story come full circle, but it’s a path I’m extremely excited to go down.
Sure, in the near 20 years I’ve studied, watched and followed Notre Dame football, pains and heartbreaks have happened. The Bush Push, blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in the Big House against Denard Robinson, everything about the 3-9 and 4-8 seasons and probably everything about that night in Miami Gardens against Alabama have all been forgotten in my head, or at least I tell myself they have.
But, there’s also the “37-0” massacre of Brady Hoke’s pride, Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija to beat UCLA, Arnaz Battle’s “Holy Rudy!” scamper against Michigan State, Miles Boykin’s absurd catch against LSU in the Citrus Bowl and of course, yelling “his grandmother is my neighbor” after Jaylon Smith’s first career interception against USC in the rain and how could I forget, winning the prestigious Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers six years ago.
On top of helping with the never-ending football coverage here at OFD, I’ll be joining the crew to also assist in the women’s basketball department, where Muffet McGraw should already have her own statue built outside of the Purcell Pavilion.
Actually, maybe it should be two statues, one of her coaching on a sideline and the little jig she did after the Irish beat Connecticut in last season’s Final Four in Tampa.
Notre Dame has won 835 of their 921 victories with McGOAT at the helm, including nine Final Four appearances and two national titles. Skyler Diggins-Smith, Arike Ogunbowale, Ruth Riley, Devereaux Peters, Brianna Turner, Jewell Loyd, Jessica Shepard and Natalie Achonwa are just some of the greats that McGraw has coached.
Watch women’s basketball. Read about women’s basketball. I truly can’t stress this enough. Truthfully, watch and follow women’s sports in general. If not, I’m going to do all I can to see that you want to.
Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe this opportunity for me to join all of you in the OFD community and with this piece, my time here has officially begun.
Only 147 days until the 2020 College Football Playoff begins and 245 days until the Women’s Final Four.
Get ready, friends.