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JAMES BENT: Bent was ‘caught up in the moment’ at Heinz Field

Chris Khorey | Friday, November 18, 2005

There were a little more than nine minutes left in the game, and Pittsburgh had just punted the ball back to Notre Dame. With the Irish leading 42-21, coach Charlie Weis and the coaching staff decided to put in some reserve offensive players.

And that was how James Bent finally got on the field for the Irish.

The walk-on senior center lined up over the ball and snapped it to back up quarterback David Wolke. Wolke handed off to Travis Thomas, who ran for nine yards off the right side, giving Bent the first official playing time of his career.

“Coming off to the sideline after the first series I was in, some of the guys who play a lot were really happy to see me and some of the other guys, who have working so long, finally get in the game,” Bent said. “I got caught up in it for a second, but then we got the ball back and I had to go back in again.”

The Irish offense returned to the field charged with the task of running out the clock, but thanks to a long run by Wolke, they advanced the ball all the way to the 4-yard line before the game ended.

“I was lined up when the clock ran out, so I had my hand on the ball,” Bent said. “When the whistle blew, I looked up and it finally dawned on me that I had just played at Heinz Field. It was kind of surreal.”

Bent has played in five more games this year. He was on the field for his first touchdown drive during the Purdue game.

Bent grew up in the South Bend area and graduated from Mishawaka High School. His father and two of his brothers attended Notre Dame.

Still, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he would play for the Irish. Bent considered playing football at Butler, DePauw and Washington University in St. Louis and even took a recruiting trip to Stanford.

But in the end, nowhere compared to Notre Dame.

“The fact that both my father and brothers went here, and the opportunities that Notre Dame opens up later in life, I just felt it was the best option for me,” Bent said.

During his visit to Stanford, Bent met Tyrone Willingham, who would later become his coach for three years at Notre Dame.

“I went out [to Stanford] when he was coach, then I got an award in high school where he was the keynote speaker,” Bent said. “Then I had a meeting with him talking about walking on, and then I got a letter in the summer inviting me to fall camp.”

Bent toiled on the scout team for three seasons, an experience he said made him a better person and football player.

“I think that being on the scout team and then finally my senior year getting on the field made me realize that not everything in life comes easily,” he said. “Plus going against the starting defense makes you a better player. I’ve gotten a chance this year to play in five games and I don’t think I would have been able to if I’d just been in the back somewhere.”

Bent, who is majoring in marketing, has had several interviews about possible jobs after graduation.

“I’m interviewing with a few companies,” Bent said. “I’m seeking a position in marketing or just business somehow, maybe consulting.”

But Bent said he’s looking outside the region.

“I’d like to get out of the South Bend-Mishawaka area,” he said. “I love the area, but I feel like I should get out for a while.”