Notre Dame junior to be center Matt Hegarty has been reportedly cleared to resume football activities as of March 15 – just in time for spring football which is set to kickoff on March 20.
Hegarty missed the final few games of 2012 and the BCS Championship against Alabama after suffering a “mini stroke” during a walk through in November 8. He then had heart surgery to repair two holes in his heart that existed since birth but had previously gone undetected. The condition was a scary ordeal for a college athlete, but throughout the process it was reported that doctors were optimistic that the New Mexico native would be able to return to full football activities and that appears to be the case.
With Hegarty cleared to play, he is set to battle it out for the starting center position that has been left vacated by the graduation of 4-year starter Braxston Cave along with Conor Hanratty and Nick Martin. Given Hegarty’s delicate medical condition though it is probably safe to assume that the Irish medical and coaching staff will be extra cautious with Hegarty in the spring and fall which may impact his ability to compete for the starting role this year – not to mention how the time he has lost in the weight room will impact his chances here.
When healthy, Hegarty offers an elite talent that had scholarship offers from many of the top programs in the nation who in a perfect world would be just entering his prime time to challenge for a starting role. Had he not lost time in bowl preparations and in the weight room, he would be entering his third spring practice after having two full off-season’s worth of weight training and practices under his belt.
Given the seriousness of Hegarty’s condition though, the fact that he has been cleared for practice and will be able to resume his football career is about the best news that anyone could have hoped for just a few months ago.
Hegarty’s return to action is also great news for the junior offensive line class that has been decimated by injuries and transfers. Brian Kelly and Notre Dame signed five offensive linemen in his first full class, but with Hegarty back to full strength, only two remain on the team – Hegarty and Hanratty. Junior classmate Brad Carrico has already suffered a career ending injury and indications clearly point to a similar fate for Tate Nichols. The final member of the offensive line class of 2011, Jordan Prestwood, transferred from Notre Dame in the fall after previously transferring back to Notre Dame for the 2011 season.
The offensive line in general is sure to be an interesting competition throughout spring and fall camps. With Hegarty back in the mix now, the Irish coaching staff has another veteran lineman at their disposal which should lessen any dependency on incoming freshmen linemen for depth in the offensive trenches. Hegarty’s health, however, will be monitored closely to ensure that his repaired heart responds well to the rigors of playing college football.