Oct. 21, 2004

by Greg Touney

With the intensity and bragging rights associated with the Notre Dame-Boston College series, expect there to be a lot of trash talk in the trenches during this Saturday’s game at Notre Dame Stadium.

Don’t expect Greg Pauly, however, to be a participant.

“It’s known as one of the more talkative games on the line and it gets kind of rough and rowdy out there compared to some other games,” Pauly says. “To tell you the truth, I don’t really get caught up in it that much because I try to stay as calm and focused as I can.”

While the Boston College game carries special significance for Pauly since the Irish have not beaten them in the three years that he has suited up for the team, the senior defensive tackle acknowledges that every game is a huge game for him. No one doubts that either, as Pauly has had a tremendous season to date.

“I would say it is an excellent year,” head coach Tyrone Willingham said about Pauly’s 2004 campaign. “I’m pleased with what he has done, and I like the leadership and the play he’s given our football team.”

Perhaps the finest effort that Pauly, along with the rest of the Notre Dame defense, has had this year was the Oct. 16 game vs. Navy. The Midshipmen entered the contest averaging 267.4 yards per game – the sixth-best rushing offense in the nation. Navy rushed for 216 net yards (on 61 attempts), but the Irish defense managed to silence the rest of the Navy offense. In fact, Notre Dame registered more sacks (six) than Navy had pass completions (three).

Pauly especially had a strong game, earning accolades from coaches, media, and fans. The Waukesha, Wisc., native registered nine tackles (one solo and one for a loss) and had one of the six Irish sacks, dropping Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco for a two-yard loss in the second quarter.

A large part of Pauly’s role as a defensive tackle is to clog up the middle, thus freeing up the Notre Dame linebackers. As shown in the Navy game, however, Pauly has also shown his ability to stop runners himself.

“It’s part of our responsibilities (as defensive tackles) to clog it up,” Pauly explains. “But it’s also an extra benefit if you can make the tackle and help the team out.”

Already, Pauly has tallied 30 tackles, tied for sixth-most on the team (highest among defensive linemen) and more than graduated linemen Darrell Campbell (25) and Cedric Hilliard (27) – both solid players for the Irish – each had at the end of last year.

Pauly and his fellow defensive tackles Derek Landri and Trevor Laws – who form a formidable three-man rotation – have stepped in admirably following the loss of Campbell and Hilliard. The three, along with the rest of the defensive line, have quickly ended any questions that critics might have had about this year’s group.

Pauly credits the chemistry of the line as a reason for their success.

“Everyone on the defensive line gets along really well,” Pauly says. “I think all of us hanging out with each other during the offseason helps. If you play with your friend, you can trust him much more.”

The trust is evident. Pauly notes that if one of the defensive tackles gets tired, “You know that the next person is going to come in and play just as good.”

Arriving on campus as a highly touted incoming freshman in 2000, Pauly’s Notre Dame career hit an early roadblock, as a preseason knee injury forced him to miss his entire first year.

“(My collegiate career) started off really slow with the knee injury,” Pauly remembers. “I had to start all over again in a sense and that was hard. Just coming into college – it’s such a different level and speed of the game that it’s hard to adjust.”

The 6-foot-6, 295-pounder has adjusted and the fruits of his hard work have been showing more and more over the last few years – while still leaving room for improvement, of course.

“I think I can improve in a lot of areas – I’m never satisfied,” Pauly says. “I don’t think many players are really satisfied with how they play. This season can only get better.”

With four games remaining, including two road contests at Tennessee and USC looming large, the Irish still have a lot to tackle this season. Regardless, Pauly has still found time to reflect on how he wants to be remembered.

“I just want to be hustling out there and trying as hard as I can. I want people to look at me and say `you know, that kid works really hard’,” Pauly says. “That’s the standard everyone should have for this team.”

Pauly has definitely reached that standard in each game this year, and from his play so far, Irish faithful should feel assured that he will continue to do so in the final four games.