Sept. 15, 2006
By Craig Chval He could have been “Rudy.” A lifelong Fighting Irish fan, initially denied admission to Notre Dame. Undaunted, he gained admission as a transfer student, but that wasn’t enough. He had to make the football team. Once he did that, Irish placekicker Chuck Male even outdid the most famous walk-on in Notre Dame history by etching his name in the Notre Dame record book.
The highlight of Male’s career came in the first game of the 1979 season when he accounted for all of Notre Dame’s scoring in a 12-10 upset of number-six Michigan in Ann Arbor. And while Hollywood hasn’t come calling, Male’s heroics were captured by an ABC-TV national telecast.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., who moved with his family to Mishawaka when he was in sixth grade, Male enrolled in Western Michigan University. He earned the Broncos’ starting place kicker’s spot before gaining admission to Notre Dame during his freshman year in Kalamazoo. Faced with the decision of whether to give up his hard-won position at Western Michigan for an uncertain journey at Notre Dame, Male followed his dreams and enrolled at Notre Dame.
Much like the character in the movie, Male’s battle was far from over. It was hardly a given that he would make the team, let alone play in a game.
“I was kicking by myself on Cartier Field before spring practice started when (Irish Head Coach) Dan Devine was running on the track,” Male recalls. “He stopped running and came over to me and said, `Go inside and tell (assistant coach) Hank Kuhlman that you’re on the team and you need equipment.’
“Later, Coach Devine would tell people that he `discovered’ me – I felt like I was a continent or something,” laughs Male. It was a “discovery” that paid big dividends for Devine and the Irish. Male won the starting kicking job in ’78 following the graduation of four-year starter Dave Reeve. Male’s 13 field goals as a senior in ’79 tied Reeve for the Notre Dame single-season record, and Male still stands 10th on Notre Dame’s all-time list.
Chuck Male connected on all four field-goal tries in Notre Dame’s 12-10 win at sixth-ranked Michigan on Sept. 15, 1979.
After a couple of near misses attempting to earn spots with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos, Male began working as a commercial real estate broker with CB Richard Ellis in Cincinnati. He’s been there ever since, as he raises three children with his wife, Sossie.
Eldest son Charlie is a senior starting wide receiver on the nationally-ranked St. Xavier High School football team, while younger brother Sam quarterbacks the junior varsity team as a sophomore and is a standout baseball player. Younger sister Josie is a freshman at Ursuline Academy, where she runs cross country.
And just as his father once did for him, Male is instilling in his children a love for Notre Dame. As youngsters, they watched Notre Dame’s student managers paint the football helmets, and even helped get the players’ lockers ready for the game.
The next generation – it almost sounds like the script to a movie.