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Brian Coughlin: Being on team fills void for wide receiver

Molly Sammon | Friday, November 20, 2009

From the start of his freshman year at Notre Dame, Brian Coughlin knew something was missing, something was just not right about being away at school and not being a part of the football team.

So he turned down Division III offers in the hopes of suiting up for the Irish.

Now he’s a senior wide receiver.

As a senior at Brother Rice High School outside Chicago, he had the opportunity to talk to a few different college coaches about the prospect of playing football at the college level. But Coughlin had different plans.

“I had some Division III coaches talk to me, they would come out to the school, and we could talk to them,” Coughlin said. “But more specifically, I wanted to come to Notre Dame so I didn’t pursue playing in college.”

Coughlin and his younger brother, Patrick who is also a walk-on wide receiver at Notre Dame, went to a few games when they were younger and both fell in love with campus and with the fighting Irish.  He remembers one of his first games in South Bend clearly, a rainy game against Navy.

“I still have a picture in my basement of my brother, my grandpa, my dad, and me at Notre Dame from that game, and we all look so excited,” Coughlin said. “It was so long ago, but I remember being so happy.”

These early memories helped Coughlin decide that attending Notre Dame as a non-athlete ruled over the prospect of being recruited to play football at a different school.

“Seeing Notre Dame football on television and hearing about their academics made me want to come here,” Coughlin said. “I realized I had a chance to get in when I was a sophomore in high school, I applied, and I decided to come to Notre Dame.”

During his freshman and sophomore years, Coughlin played Interhall football for Dillon Hall, but was not satisfied and began tossing around the idea of playing on the varsity football team. After discussing the walk-on tryouts with his roommate who had gone through the process, Coughlin decided to prepare himself physically and give it a try.

“I talked to some of the other guys and they told me, and at the time when I made it after the first cut where they cut a lot of people,” Coughlin said. “I was really nervous at the first cut, but then it kind of sunk in that I had a really good chance at making it.”

Upon surviving all the cuts and maintaining consistency in practice and workouts, Coughlin was picked to be a member of the Notre Dame football team.

“The first time running out of the tunnel was just amazing,” Coughlin said. “We ran out of the tunnel for the Blue and Gold game, but it just wasn’t the same.”

Coughlin walked on the team during the spring of his sophomore year, which has allowed him to be on the football roster for his junior and senior year seasons.

“It’s really like a 180-degree turn,” Coughlin said of the necessary changes in transferring from a regular full-time student to a Division-I athlete.

“The brotherhood you have with your teammates is definitely something I’m going to miss after graduating,” Coughlin said.

The term brotherhood on the football team has a more literal meaning to Coughlin in particular, as his younger brother Patrick also decided to come to Notre Dame and walk on the football team.

“It was fun to know that we both made it on our own,” Coughlin said. “Without having me helping him, he knows that he made it himself.”

An important part of team structure that Coughlin noticed is the bond that the coaches have formed with all players by stressing the importance of every member of the team.

“I got to sit next to coach Weis in meetings this year, so I got to know him better, which was cool because you wouldn’t really expect the head football coach to have a good relationship with even the walk-ons of the team,” Coughlin said. “He and all the other coaches want to make even the walk-ons feel like they are valuable players.”

After graduating in the spring with a major in accounting, Coughlin will be interning at Deloitte Accounting and Consulting Firm. He then intends to return to Notre Dame for a fifth-year masters of accounting program and hopes to find a job as an accountant.

“Accounting gives me the best options down the road,” Coughlin said. “I learned a lot in my sophomore year accounting class, and I knew I wanted to be in the business school.”

This week’s final home game against Connecticut marks Coughlin’s last football game,and next semester, his last as an undergraduate at Notre Dame.

“I am definitely going to miss the fact that at Notre Dame you have a community of 8,000 peers and people your age all around you,” Coughlin said. “I am going to miss the people the most.”