State of the Nation: Volume III

By John Mahoney — Football '21

If you’re a fan of the program (and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are), I’m sure you’ve heard a thing or two about the traits — Attention to Detail, Smart, Laser Focus, Attitude, and Grit — that Coach Kelly and his staff try to instill in our team every day. Each is important and valuable in its own way, which is why we devote a day each week to one specifically. 

With that in mind, I’m going to switch things up this week.

Rather than talk too much about last week’s win over Virginia, I want to take you inside one of the days that makes a day like Saturday possible: Grit Wednesday. 

Grit is defined as “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.” I may be biased, but I believe that there is no place that such a quality would be more necessary than here at Notre Dame. The minute you join the team, you’re challenged with two simple goals: Win a National Championship and graduate from the University of Notre Dame. 

These are lofty goals, without a doubt. There are 130 universities that play FBS football, and only one can be crowned champion in a given year. Furthermore, college football is unique in that the regular season is far more meaningful than in most other sports. To achieve our goal, we have to be at our very best every week. Succeeding as a student at Notre Dame — particularly as a student-athlete — requires a similar level of dedication. Our reputation as one of the finest universities in the country didn’t arise out of nowhere; it was earned through the hard work and dedication of so many that have studied, taught, and worked here over the years. To uphold this standard requires dedication and perseverance — particularly when things get challenging. 

So — back to Grit Wednesday. 

The morning starts for me with a 7:45 a.m. lift, and I’m generally out of bed before 7 so I can grab something to eat while making sure that I can make it there a few minutes early. Something you learn soon after joining the team is that with strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis in charge, to be early is to be on time. Before each workout, he and his staff have correctives and other preventative exercises that are, in many ways, as important as the more traditional lifts we do during the workout. 

When that finishes at 9 a.m. or so, we head to the locker room to get cleaned up before heading to class. On Wednesdays, I don’t have class until 11, so I try to take advantage of the window of time I do have to do some schoolwork — though if I’ve been up late studying the night before, I will admit that it is an excellent time to grab a quick nap before class and practice. 

After Strategic Management with Professor Hubbard and Investment Theory with Professor Matthies, I head back to the Gug to get ready for practice. I’ll often grab a quick bite to eat, then weigh in and start getting dressed before our meetings begin at 2:25. 

We then have around an hour and a half of meetings before practice. We always begin with a special teams meeting, but the lion’s share of this time is spent with our individual position groups. We also spend some time with our entire unit (the entire defense, in my case). 

After meetings, we head out to practice — where Grit Wednesday truly earnsits name. As our last day of full-contact practice before Saturday’s game, it is intense, physical and challenging. It is generally the longest practice of the week, and it requires a level of energy and want-to that I feel differentiates us from our competition. We believe that the game on Saturday is won on Tuesday and Wednesday, and our collective effort in practice is reflective of that. 

After practice, we share a meal before going our separate ways to do homework, watch film, or do any number of things to help us prepare for Saturday. With Grit Wednesday behind us, our focus shifts to Attention to Detail Thursday — another important step on the road to our ultimate goal.

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