Colin and Tim Grunhard

Irish Legacies: Father-Son Combos Thrive at Notre Dame

Ask former Irish great Tim Grunhard what makes him proudest while watching his sophomore son Colin Grunhard move through Notre Dame as a next-generation offensive lineman, and the answer might surprise.
Father doesn’t mention pancake blocks or how his son has worked his way from a walk-on player onto the Irish travel roster and into a few live snaps this season.
Nope, in fact, Tim Grunhard doesn’t even mention football when answering the question.
Instead, he talks about how Notre Dame team captain Alex Bars chose Colin in the off-season with his first pick when Bars, a three-year starting offensive lineman, was building his winter and summer workout group.
These player-drafted squads work together but compete against each other throughout the offseason and are scored and ranked based on everything from community service and academic achievement to workout reps and a tidy locker space.
“Even if you’re not playing on the field, and scoring the touchdowns, or throwing the touchdown block, or making the big sack,” Tim Grunhard said, “these other assets can really affect the team by doing the right things off the field and working as hard as you can on the field.”
Father would know best.
Tim Grunhard was a starting offensive guard for the 1988 Notre Dame national championship team and an 11-year NFL starting lineman with the Kansas City Chiefs after that. Tim also coached Colin for three years at Bishop Miege High School in Mission, Kansas, near Kansas City.
And while Tim admits that in the back of his mind during Colin’s recruiting process that father was rooting for son to choose Notre Dame, dad stayed out of the final decision.
“Ultimately, Notre Dame offered the whole package,” said Colin, whose college choice was also swayed from the experiences shared during countless Irish games with family and friends during his formative years. “The academics, the athletics, the history, the tradition, then also my family is very intertwined into the University, so that also played a huge role in me coming here too.”
Interlocked might be a better description than intertwined.
When Colin’s twin sister, Cailey, finished her first swimming season at Notre Dame last school year, she became a fourth-generation monogram winner in the Grunhard-Harrington family tree.
Tim and his future wife, Sarah Harrington, met as classmates at Notre Dame in the 1980s.
Sarah’s father, Jim Harrington, was an all-American pole vaulter at Notre Dame in 1954, and Sarah’s grandfather, Paul Harrington, was a pole vaulter for the Irish in 1926 under then-track coach Knute Rockne. Paul Harrington later became a world-record holder in the event.
With four college-aged children, might a fifth-generation Notre Dame monogram winner be in the works 20-some years from now?
“Let’s not rush things,” Tim Grunhard joked. “But if any family is going to do it, it’s going to be the Grunhard-Harrington family that has put together such a legacy at Notre Dame.”
Following are the six 2018 Irish players with father-son connections.
Alex Bars
6-6, 315 lbs., OL
YEAR: Graduate Student
HIGH SCHOOL: Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, Tenn.)
FATHER: John Bars played linebacker here from 1981-84, made 29 career tackles and was part of the first recruiting class of former Irish head coach Gerry Faust.
ALEX’S NOTABLES: Named a team captain for the 2018 season and a first-team preseason All-American by The Sporting News … Started all 25 games in 2016 and 2017 and the first five this season before a knee injury prematurely ended his fine Irish career … brother, Brad, played defensive end at Penn State (2010-14) and brother, Blake, played offensive line at Michigan (2012-15) … graduated in May with a finance degree … projected to be a first-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
QUOTEABLE: “Dad was pretty chill, he never really pushed me that hard to come to Notre Dame but I knew in the back of his mind he’d love for me to go and follow in his footsteps. But he really didn’t push me that hard. He let me see every school that I wanted to, let me keep my options open and let me decide on my own.”
Keenan Sweeney
6-0, 237 lbs., RB/FB/ST
YEAR: Graduate Student
HIGH SCHOOL: Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.)
FATHER: John Sweeney played fullback here from 1979-82 and now serves as the Surgeon-in-Chief at Emory University School of Medicine in Georgia.
KEENAN’S NOTABLES: Transferred to Notre Dame after graduating from Auburn with honors as a four-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member … was a prep state finalist in swimming … has appeared in every Irish game this season as a special teams contributor … working toward his graduate degree in Global Health.
QUOTEABLE: “Notre Dame was always my dream school, coming here meant everything to me. So when I didn’t get the chance out of high school, I kept that dream alive and I couldn’t be happier to make this dream come true. It has been everything I had hoped it would be.”
Logan Plantz
6-2, 284 lbs., OL
YEAR: Senior
HIGH SCHOOL: Providence Catholic (Frankfort, Ill.)
FATHER: Ron Plantz played offensive guard here from 1982-85. He also appeared in three games with the Chicago Bears in 1987.
LOGAN’S NOTABLES: Transferred and walked on at Notre Dame in January of 2016 from nearby Holy Cross College … appeared in two games last season and one so far in 2018 … following in the footsteps of older brother Tyler Plantz, a walk-on Irish player from 2010-13 who earned a scholarship in 2014 as a fifth-year senior. Tyler Plantz currently serves as a Notre Dame special teams analyst. 
QUOTEABLE: “My father always relayed the message at a young age of what Notre Dame was all about and how Notre Dame was always bigger than himself. He kind of built everything he had in life from Notre Dame and making him the man that he is. I saw that example at a young age and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Devyn Spruell
6-2, 240 lbs., LB
YEAR: Senior
HIGH SCHOOL: Watching Hills (Warren, N.J.)
FATHER: Byron Spruell played offensive guard here from 1984-87 and became a co-captain before earning his degree in mechanical engineering, later receiving his MBA. He now serves as the NBA President of League Operations. His wife, Sedra, was a classmate at Notre Dame, where she earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
DEVYN’S NOTABLES: Has served as a valuable member of the Notre Dame scout team in practice … has yet to appear in a game during his Irish career … a two-way player in high school, recorded 214 career tackles, 10 for loss, five sacks and two fumble recoveries on defense, with 21 receptions for 354 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver on offense.
QUOTEABLE: “Just the culture of Notre Dame itself and being a part of that at such a young age, growing up watching my dad and his teammates still connect when we came up here, all of it had a lasting effect that made me want to have that. All of that made it the place where I wanted to go to college.”
Colin Grunhard
6-1, 280 lbs., OL
YEAR: Sophomore
HIGH SCHOOL: Bishop Miege (Mission, Kans.)
FATHER: Tim Grunhard played offensive guard here from 1986-89, became a starter on the 1988 national championship team and was part of a group the won 23 consecutive games. A second-round NFL Draft pick, Grunhard enjoyed a successful 11-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
COLIN’S NOTEABLES: After redshirting as a true freshman last year, this preferred walk-on had appeared in two games this season and earned a spot on the Irish travel roster at the time of publication … made 50 consecutive starts as a four-year starter in high school … was a two-time selection to the First Team All-Eastern Kansas League team and an all-state pick as a senior in 2016.
QUOTEABLE: “Dad told me some stories about the guys he played together with and about the guys he played against, and all the big games he played in, and how 80’s ball was a lot tougher than it is now. He always talked about how much he enjoyed playing here.”
J.D. Carney
5-10, 178 lbs., QB
YEAR: Sophomore
HIGH SCHOOL: Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)
FATHER: John Carney was a placekicker here from 1983-86 and ranks as the second-most accurate field-goal kicker in Irish history (73.9 percent). Carney finished his 23-year professional career as the fifth-leading scorer in NFL history and as a Super Bowl champion.
J.D.’S NOTABLES: Has not appeared in a game yet as a walk-on … became a three-time Union Tribune Student Scholar Varsity Athlete in high school …  helped his prep team to a 2016 CIF State Bowl championship … earned Eagle Scout honors.
QUOTEABLE: “I found a very special connection with my faith life at Notre Dame, especially with the Grotto here, so that’s where I kind of felt a special place. So as my father provided all of the fun merchandise, my faith and connection to this place is what inspired me even more.”