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Dan Wenger: With another year possible, Wenger not done yet

Eric Prister | Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fifth-year offensive lineman Dan Wenger has dealt with position changes, coaching changes and battled injuries throughout his time at Notre Dame. Through it all, Wenger said he felt that he had something to prove, and is confident that he was able to accomplish that goal.

“It’s just one of those things where you’re looking for the real end goal — to be successful every year and to keep getting better and hopefully play at the next level,” Wenger said. “In life, in football, in school or really in any aspect there’s always going to be something that comes up and brings you down to your knees, and then the question is are you going to get up or are you going to sit there and lay down and not do anything about it?

“And I just kept fighting and getting up and was stronger for it and bounced back and proved myself as one of the toughest and smartest and most reliable players that have come through this program.”

Wenger’s 19 starts places him third among active offensive players in that category. He attributes part of his success to the teaching he received in his first few years on the team.

“I would just say that my first offensive line coach, John Latina, recruited me from the start and was really always in my corner for everything,” he said. “He molded me and shaped me and taught me football like I never knew it was supposed to be played. He showed me what the game’s really about and transitioned me from a good high school player to a real college player who really understood the game and gave me a grasp on what we’re trying to do. Not only coach Latina, but also [former Irish center] John Sullivan reached out to me a lot, and luckily I had two years with John. Those two definitely helped me and worked with me and made me football smart.”

Wenger’s most successful season was his junior year. He started every game for the Irish at center in 2008, a team that finished 7-6 after their Hawaii Bowl victory.

“[Being a starter is] obviously one of the greatest feelings in the world,” he said. “I started at center, and all the calls were on me. I had control of the line, and that’s what I really live and die for in playing this game, because I have control, I’m the anchor of the line. That was the greatest feeling of it all, just knowing that the other four guys could trust me and knew that I was going to get my job done and had faith and confidence in me. That’s the best feeling, being able to give your all on every snap of every play of every game, and being that reliable to a team. It’s something special that you don’t find very often with many players.”

Wenger played center in high school, but has been moved back and forth between center and guard, a process that he said he believes has taught him to adapt.

“It gave me the ability to just be able to adapt in pretty much a split second, because with my position changes and coaching changes, there was a lot of back-and-forth,” he said. “So it’s just a matter of being able to be coached in certain situations at certain positions and roll with the punches. You’ve got a situation that’s out of your hand, out of your control, and you have to make the best of it.”

Despite the many setbacks, Wenger said he would not change a thing about his time at Notre Dame, which, he hinted, might not be quite done.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I couldn’t change one thing about it. I met great guys, great people, great coaches. I got a great education, and this place is something special. Whoever gets the opportunity to come through here, not only going to school but if you’re given the blessing of playing here, you really have to treasure it. It took me a while to really understand that and really realize where I was. You can’t take it for granted at all. But don’t rule me out. I might be back next year.”