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Barry Gallup, Jr.: Gallup relishes both returning a kick and playing the piano

Laura Myers | Thursday, November 11, 2010

A concert pianist sits alone on stage, showcasing his skills for an attentive audience.

Fifth-year Barry Gallup, Jr. played piano from kindergarten to high school. At Notre Dame, he turned to a different medium: returning kicks.

“All eyes are on you in the Stadium. You’re pretty much alone back there when they kick the ball to you,” Gallup said. “It’s something I felt real comfortable doing.”

After missing the last four games of his junior season with an ankle injury, Gallup returned to the field in 2009 against Michigan. He returned two kicks for 77 yards, including a third-quarter return for 52 yards.

“It was the culmination of all my hard work getting back and all the people that supported me, and my family and all my friends staying positive,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to play again, because I had a pretty bad ankle injury.

“That was a job I didn’t want to give up.”

In nine returns in 2009, Gallup totaled 163 yards. He competed for the job again this season, but fell on the depth chart.

“All the guys give me a hard time, they say the fifth-years are old, so maybe I’m a step slow from what I used to be,” he said.

However, he has still played a significant role on special teams this year, and has made three tackles on the season, including one for loss.

“A lot of people said I probably hadn’t made a tackle since high school, but I don’t think I even made too many tackles in high school,” said Gallup, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds.

After the 2009 season, Gallup did not know whether he would come back for a fifth year. When the coaches offered, Gallup answered quickly.

“It wasn’t really a decision for me. It wasn’t a predicament,” he said. “The opportunity to play at Notre Dame one more time, I didn’t have any indecision on my part. Just to be around the guys and to have the opportunity to run out of the tunnel, and to play another season was something I was looking for.”

Because he didn’t know his situation, last season’s Senior Day loss to Connecticut could have been Gallup’s last game. However, he said the seniors are determined to make this year different.

“I think the main difference this year is we want to finish with a win,” he said. “It’s not the same feeling when you lose and your family’s on the field after the game and you give them a fake smile. It’s just not the same.”

The fifth year gave Gallup a chance to explore his interests outside of football, as well. He graduated with a degree in finance after just three years, and has spent the last two years taking graduate-level classes in other subjects that interest him — including piano.

“I don’t think many of my teammates know that about me,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of football players and pianists walking around. … I kind of got away from it with football and my finance classes, but I’ve been able to get back into it.”

However, he might not have time much longer. Gallup accepted a job with CitiGroup, an investment banking firm in New York City, in October.

The job came after many applications and interviews, Gallup said. His academic record probably helped him out, too; he was recently named to ESPN’s academic all-district thanks to his studies in graduate classes.

“That’s something my mom was proud of,” he said. “She was happy to hear that. I’ve got to keep my mom happy. She’s the best.”

In fact, part of the deal for Gallup to attend Notre Dame, which is far from his home in Wellesley, Mass., was that his mom would attend every one of his games.

“I’m really close with my family. My mom, my dad, my sister. They’re all my best friends,” Gallup said. “My mom’s actually never missed one of my games, all five years. She comes to every game. … I’m forever grateful to her for everything she’s done for me. And my dad, he’s my biggest supporter. And my sister, she’s my best friend.”

After five tumultuous years at Notre Dame, Gallup said he is ready to face the real world.

“It’s been crazy all the stuff that’s happened,” he said. “I think my experiences here have prepared me for life after football and everything I’ll have to go through.”