State of the Nation: Volume V

By John Mahoney, Football '21

Each week prior to Notre Dame football home games, junior defensive back John Mahoney brings you State of the Nation, an inside look at the Irish from a walk-on’s perspective. A reference to the Walk-On Players’ Union and WOPU Nation, State of the Nation, will take you inside the locker room and on the sidelines throughout the 2019 season. Mahoney, a native of West Des Moines, Iowa, is a finance major in the Mendoza College of Business with a minor in history.

If you’re a college football fan and spend any time on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen the ways that each school advertises the career services and preparation for life after football that each school provides their players. It’s all well-intended, and I’m certain that those guys do, in fact, benefit from the programming provided them. With that in mind, I want to make clear that the aim of this column is not to demean or discredit the programming at other schools. 

With that being said, I firmly believe that there is no school or football program that prepares its players for life after football better than Notre Dame. It’s part of the reason I chose to come here, and I’ve found it to be everything I dreamed it could be — and then some. It’s the reason a degree from this University transcends region or industry. It’s the reason that our alumni are so incredibly loyal, and that so many of those who have no real connection to this university love it as if they had gone here themselves. It’s the reason that — as Coach Holtz famously said — “For those who know Notre Dame, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation will suffice.” 

I’ve had opportunities to meet people and experience things that I never would have thought possible before coming here. As I wrote in my very first column, simply being from Notre Dame — particularly as a student-athlete and football player — provides a credibility that has opened doors for me that otherwise would have remained firmly closed. Access to internships, exposure to the best and brightest across industries and disciplines, or the sense of loyalty and family that this place instills in each one of its sons and daughters — all of it contributes to the development of the entire person in a way that no other school can match. 

And though the formal events we have, whether they be career fairs, alumni engagement events, or speaker series, are incredibly valuable, I’d argue that that what truly differentiates a man or woman of Notre Dame are the daily challenges that slowly transform you into more than you imagined you ever could be. See, there are no online classes or meaningless majors here. Regardless of your area of interest or course of study, Notre Dame will challenge you and force you to grow in ways you never could have imagined. Just as there are no shortcuts on the field, there are no shortcuts in the classroom. As a student here, you’re surrounded by the best and brightest students from across the world, the vast majority of whom are motivated to achieve at the highest level. Everything you want to achieve, you have to earn. 

The persistent emphasis on excellence can be challenging, without question. It’s not easy to wake up before dawn, trudge across campus through driving snow, push through an exhausting workout, then stay engaged through a full day of challenging classes — then do the same thing the next day for weeks on end. It’s a grind, and there are days where it’s easy to lose faith in the process. 

However, I can say with certainty that so much of what I am and what I have achieved, I owe to this school and this program. The early mornings and late nights required to make everything work here have instilled in me and my teammates a work ethic and determination that I know will pay dividends in the years to come. It’s an opportunity that I’m unbelievably lucky to have, and I’m eternally proud to be a member of the Notre Dame family. 

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