Sept. 2, 2003
By Adam Porcelli
The mystique surrounding Notre Dame football has been shaped by several elements over the years, but few stir as much excitement as the story of a walk-on player who earns an opportunity to play for the Irish. Although “Rudy” may be the most famous walk-on story, Notre Dame’s history of walk-on players who made an impact on the program has made walking on at Notre Dame a tradition. The next player adding to the walk-on tradition is junior fullback Josh Schmidt.
Schmidt began playing football in sixth grade and had a successful high-school career, earning second-team all-state honors as a senior tailback. However, the Germantown, Tenn., native decided to concentrate on academics when making his college choice, while still keeping football in his thoughts.
“Growing up, I followed Notre Dame football, but I wasn’t a huge fan and really chose to come to Notre Dame for the academics,” the 6’1″, 220-pound Schmidt said.
“For football, though, I always kept it in the back of my mind and thought I might try to walk on at some point. I figured if school and everything went well the first semester out here, I might give it a shot.”
Things did go well for Schmidt and he decided to try to walk on the Irish squad in the spring of his freshman year. He succeeded and continued to work hard in ’02, gaining weight and moving to fullback, while seeing action in two games – Maryland and Rutgers. Schmidt continued to impress the Notre Dame coaching staff this past spring and was rewarded with a chance to become a regular contributor for the 2003 campaign.
“Coach (Willingham) said in the spring that there was a chance at fullback to play regularly come this fall,” Schmidt said.
“The opportunity was also there on special teams and I just listened to the coaches and worked really hard in the summer to be able to compete for a chance to play. It worked out and now I am playing on special teams and with the offense.”
As one expect, Schmidt feels fortunate to have worked his way into head coach Tyrone Willingham’s plans for the Irish. He is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Notre Dame football and is eager to be a regular contributor this season. Despite all his excitement, Schmidt is keeping his emotions under control and is just focusing on Notre Dame’s season-opener versus Washington State this Saturday.
“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be here and to be apart of this team,” Schmidt said.
“It’s real exciting and I’m having a lot more fun going into this year, but I am trying not to get too excited about things. I know I am going to be in the game on Saturday and I want to concentrate on being ready to contribute. I want to have my emotions peak at the right time.”