Joe Schmidt and the Spirit of Notre Dame

Notre Dame Linebacker Joe Schmidt
Notre Dame Linebacker Joe Schmidt

The journey of a young man hoping to play major college football can be described as many things, but easy is not one of them. From the grind of the recruiting trips, to the decisions to stay close to family or not, to the constant barrage of voices in their ear informing them where to go. It can be very overwhelming, of course, this is assuming that your talents are highly sought after and the media and recruiting services have taken notice. For some recruits though, they are relegated to pursuing their own dreams, and do not benefit from the so-called “elite” status.

Irish junior linebacker Joe Schmidt happened to be one those whose options were extremely limited, as his path seemed to lead him to either Air Force or Cincinnati if he wanted to go on a full scholarship, or to USC as a preferred walk-on.  Growing up in California, most close to Schmidt figured it was a foregone conclusion that he would accept the preferred walk-status at USC.  The fact that his best friend and high school teammate, Max Wittek, was now the quarterback at USC, it truly seemed like a done deal.  Instead of listening to family and friends and going to USC or accepting full ride opportunities at Cincinnati or Air Force, the 6-0 230 pound linebacker from Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, CA) actually chose to listen to himself and wound up in South Bend Indiana as a walk-on for Notre Dame

Joe Schmidt’s long path to playing time

In his first year Schmidt never even saw the field, and it wasn’t until his the 6th game of 2012 against Stanford that he saw his first action, and registered his first tackle on special teams, and went on to finish the season with 6 total tackles in 5 games. Obviously with players like Schmidt it goes well beyond the numbers, and speaks more of his commitment, his sacrifice, and his dedication to a program, then how many tackles or sacks he accumulated over the year.

Schmidt’s unwavering dedication and faith in the university finally paid off earlier this month, as he was rewarded with a full scholarship. Yes it’s true that the scholarship opened up due to the fact that 5-star California commit Eddie Vanderdoes de-committed, and would have never been available if the de-commitment never took place.  Still, if a situation ever had a silver lining, this would be that scenario. Schmidt had finally realized his dream, and took to Twitter to let everyone know his feelings on the matter “I am so blessed. Thank you God thank you God thank you God.”

Will the day come that Joe Schmidt will ever be starter and a star for the Irish defense?  Probably not, but that’s not the focus of his story. What is so important about recognizing his accomplishment, is the pure and simple fact that a young man followed his heart and dreams, in order to fulfill his personal journey. He chose a path that had many uncertainties in order to be part of something very special, and in doing so accomplished something very few will ever have the opportunity to do – and his life will be better for it.

In a day and age of coddled 5-star recruits, circus-like announcements, and multiple de-commitments, a story such as Joe Schmidt’s should be celebrated.  This young man’s decision is the type that truly embodies the spirit of Notre Dame and it shall honor and reward him for not only the first 4 years of his collegiate career, but the next 40 years of his life. We take time out of our daily lives to acknowledge and debate the negative storylines such as Everett Golson, or Eddie Vanderdoes, because of the impact they most certainly will have on the Irish program, but we also need to devote time to recognize the excellence of one man’s decision to journey down the path less traveled.

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  1. What style and class ND has shown to a dedicated student and athlete. And joe being a fellow Mater Deo Monarxh shoes his dedication, pride,poise and courage. The epitomy of a Mater Dei Alum and athlete. Congrats Joe

  2. Bob,

    You say, “Yes it’s true that the scholarship opened up due to the fact that 5-star California commit Eddie Vanderdoes de-committed, and would have never been available if the de-commitment never took place.”

    Can you answer for me how 4 other former members of the Irish football program had been either asked to leave or transferred prior to this decision, opening up 4 scholarships they left behind and nothing was said about their influence on this scholarship?

    1)Gunner Kiel chooses to transfer to Cincinati, 2)DaVonte Neal is asked to leave the university 3)Justin Ferguson is asked to leave the university 4)Everett Golson is expelled from the university.

    Just wanted to make a valid point that Eddie wasn’t the only hope Joe had and that I believe he would’ve received his scholarship regardless of Vanderdoes’ decision. Thanks and loved the article.


  3. Yeah, well, that’s the way we grow ’em at Mater Dei. Put him on the field and he’ll knock ’em into next week for ya. Well done, Joe!

  4. I have had the privilege of watching this young man grow up and his response is no surprise to his friends and family. Joe is a class guy and we love him for it.

  5. the rewards of a ND education follows him forever..he made the right decision and he was moved to thank God … Joe is already blessed

  6. Guys like Joe make the team special. These are the guys who create the heart and soul.

    I like guys like that in the work place because they just keep going.

    Best of success, Joe!

  7. Isn’t this great young man related to Troy Niklas? I know Troy and Joe competed against one another in HS (Niklas-Servite v. Schmidt-Mater Dei).

    Really proud of ND and Kelly…..and of course, Joe Schmidt!!!


  8. Fantastic story Bob!

    Lets convert him to a fullback and get him on the 20 yardline blasting holes open for our RB’s. 230lbs can carry the day on the 20! And we have another lineman on special teams 258lbs that could also be converted to FB.
    Absolutely, no reason not to score frequently this year with our running game. Our 1st clue was size of the Bama backs.


  9. Great article and very true about most of the negative story lines. Congrats to this kid and helping to embody the spirit of a team player and the sport of the FIGHTING Irish.

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