The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Michael Garcia: Waiting game may be safety’s primary specialty

Megan Golden | Thursday, November 11, 2010

If at first you don’t succeed, become friends with senior safety Michael Garcia, and try, try again.

Garcia’s journey toward success began during his senior year of high school, when he received an envelope in the mail from the Notre Dame Admissions Office.

“I was one of those waitlist guys,” Garcia said. “When you’re on the waitlist it’s almost like you have to want it more because you didn’t get in to begin with. That was probably the most stressful thing.”

Garcia proved, however, that he wanted it more than anyone.

“I did everything I could. I became good friends with [Director of Admissions] Bob Mundy, and I put on the full court press on the admissions office,” Garcia said. “Then I got a call May 14, 2007, and that’s when I got into Notre Dame.”

Coming from a family of Notre Dame graduates, Garcia always dreamed of being accepted into his father’s alma mater and walking on to the basketball team.

“My two brothers were already at Notre Dame, and my dad went here. They never played any Division I sports, but that’s what I always wanted to do,” Garcia said. “I love football, and I love basketball. As a kid, I always had a goal of walking on the basketball team, [but] I remember my freshman year they didn’t have basketball tryouts.”

Once again, Garcia was not going to stop there.

“I said, ‘Hey, I might as well try football.’ I was pretty good at football in high school, so I walked on,” Garcia said. “[I] didn’t think in a million years that I would make it and got called back.”

The early mornings and strenuous workload ultimately brought all of the walk-ons together.

“The process was excruciating getting up around 4:15 for 4:30 workouts in the freezing cold of January and really not talking to anybody at the time because the other walk-ons are your competition,” Garcia said. “You had to really want it, and I think that’s how we came really close. We were all competitors at the beginning, especially the walk-ons. We were all competing for the same spots, and then that grew into friendship because we were in this together once we all made it.”

Since those strenuous early workouts, the walk-ons have banded together and formed WOPU Nation, the Walk-On Players Union.

“WOPU Nation is Walk-On Players Union, an elite group of people,” Garcia said. “It’s awesome, it’s a brotherhood. We have each other’s back. That’s part of the WOPU Nation, and we take pride in that.”

Garcia has been ready to enter a game since day one. Two weeks ago against Tulsa, however, he went the extra step to make sure he would be ready if his number was called.

“You share a number with another walk-on, and it’s hilarious. I share a number with [senior tailback] Pat Coughlin,” Garcia said. “They pulled a switcheroo on me last game because Coughlin was on kickoff, and I was going to be on kickoff. I was on the two-deep, so I was like, ‘Okay, there’s a slight chance that I might get into the game.’ I actually showed up to the game, and my number was 29. I knew I couldn’t be number 29, so I asked for a new number. So I came back, and I wore number 34.”

Garcia swapped jerseys and texted his mom about the number change just in time for her to see his debut on national television.

“It was my first time getting in and playing for ND. It was awesome,” Garcia said. “As a walk-on, that’s what you work for, to consistently help the team out, and that’s how everyone thinks, and everyone wants their shot to compete for ND, compete for Our Lady. I feel like I was finally ready.

“It was awesome getting in, running down the field in the house that Rock built. I had chills coming down my back, it’s something that I’ll remember forever.”

Playing football for Notre Dame taught Garcia life lessons.

“I learned a lot about people, I learned a lot about leadership, I learned a lot about courage. You learn so much. With whatever circumstances you’re given, you just have to take it and roll, and you have to do the best that you can,” he said. “Being a walk-on, we’re prepared for any situation.”

Garcia is grateful for all of his supporters who helped him get the opportunity to play at Notre Dame.

“I have to thank my parents, my family, my two brothers, my friends and all who’ve supported me. I have to thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity,” he said. “It’s just been an amazing journey, an amazing experience.”