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MATT MITCHELL: Rewarding experiences surround scout-team senior

Bobby Griffin | Friday, November 18, 2005

Matt Mitchell got the news of his football career in one of the more tumultuous moments in Notre Dame history.

Former head coach Tyrone Willingham had recently been fired after a 6-5 regular season, and the Irish were preparing for their Insight Bowl game against Oregon State without their head coach.

Then defensive coordinator Ken Baer approached Mitchell and told him that he would be moved up on the depth chart for the bowl game. The defensive back nodded and continued going about his practice routine, but inside, the walk-on junior was elated.

“Everything worked out and I got in during the game and it was just a rush,” Mitchell said. “I can’t describe it – it was awesome being out there.”

But for Mitchell, it wasn’t always easy. In the course of his four years, he said there were times when he was frustrated. Being a scout team player, he knew coming in that he would be working hard and rarely seeing the field.

“We look at practice as our game,” Mitchell said. “We’re out there giving offense a look, making plays, knocking people down and getting interceptions. That’s very rewarding for us.”

That’s why his time in the Insight Bowl was that much more important to him.

“It made all that hard work and dedication pay off,” Mitchell said.

Playing as a senior this year on a team that is currently ranked No. 6 in the AP poll and No. 9 in the BCS standings is exciting for Mitchell.

“It’s a great opportunity we have in front of us,” Mitchell said. “Just the respect you get around the country. When you say Notre Dame it actually means something to people.”

Being a part of the team that is putting Notre Dame back in the national forefront is important to Mitchell. The senior from Memphis, Tenn. always had his heart set on Notre Dame.

Mitchell was recruited by several Ivy League teams to play football but instead focused on getting into Notre Dame academically and then worrying about walking on.

Once accepted, Mitchell sent film to the Notre Dame coaching staff, which welcomed him as a non-scholarship player.

And even though Mitchell knows he could have played – and started – at other colleges, he has no regrets.

“I don’t look back on that,” Mitchell said. “I don’t really consider what-if’s because this experience right here, it doesn’t get any better than this.

“It’s a unique feeling you get, running out of that tunnel. You can’t that anywhere else.”

So when Mitchell hangs up cleats for good at the end of the season, he will move on with the rest of his life knowing he had a rewarding college life that many will never experience.

“These last four years have been just the best experience of my life,” Mitchell said. “I thank God every day that I had the opportunity to be a part of this team and contribute in any way I can. It’s been amazing.”