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Nick Lezynski: WOPU

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, November 11, 2010

For some kids, it’s a dream to one day play football for Notre Dame. For senior walk-on cornerback Nick Lezynski, it was much more than that.

“I would come home in first grade with a 100 on my spelling test and I would ask my mom ‘Is this good enough to get into Notre Dame? Will I be able to play football there?'” Lezynski said.

The Newton, Pa., native hails from a family draped in Notre Dame tradition. Lezynski’s parents, sister and uncles all attended Notre Dame. He even attended Notre Dame High School in his hometown.

An Irish fan growing up, Lezynski walked on during the spring of his freshman year and now is part of the very select WOPU Nation — the Walk-On Players Union, described as a brotherhood between the walk-ons.

“We have parties. We have formals. We have e-mail chains. We have video skits,” Lezynski said. “Basically, we rip on each other the whole time.”

Members of the WOPU Nation don’t take themselves too serious, either.

“I’m the president and they’re thinking about impeachment,” Lezynski said. “It’s not going to happen. It’s turned into a bit of a dictatorship.”

The leader of the WOPU Nation off the field, Lezynski got onto the field this season for a play in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame’s 23-16 win over Pittsburgh.

“The guy in front of me gets hurt and I find myself running onto the field in a six-point game, in the fourth quarter, playing kickoff return, which is easily the hardest thing to do in a game. It’s like running into a train wreck,” Lezynski said.

“It was refreshing to have some of the walk-ons get some playing time this year. I was fortunate enough to have played in a legitimately tight game.”

The converted quarterback — who, at 5-foot-9, calls himself a shade under six feet tall — also made the travel roster and has traveled to each game this year.

“I went from being the little puny quarterback to senior year, going on kickoff return and traveling with the team,” Lezynski said. “That whole route, I’ve had people supporting me and I appreciate the work ethic my parents instilled in me.”

Lezynski mentioned fellow senior walk-ons Michael Garcia, Dan Franco, Martin Quintana and Chris Gurries as among those who have supported him throughout this process.

“The bottom line is that we want Notre Dame football to win,” Lezynski said. “These past few years have been tough knowing that, being a player, I can influence the outcome. It’s been frustrating. I owe a lot to the previous coaching staff and this coaching staff for giving me a shot.”

Lezynski, a marketing major, envisions the WOPU Nation bonds to continue for the rest of his life, including in a possible business venture.

“Maybe a couple of the WOPU Nation guys and I will go into an entrepreneurship,” Lezynski said. “Maybe start a business, make some money and start a scholarship fund for the future WOPU Nation guys.”

While the business world is an option, Lezynski does not rule out a coaching career. Even without a coaching career, he believes football has prepared him for whatever challenge awaits him.

“There’s so many skills, not just physically, but mentally also,” Lezynski said. “Now that I’ve accomplished this goal, I feel like anything in the future, I’ll be able to tackle.

“Even though we have these down seasons and personally, I’m not a star, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. There’s nothing like being a Notre Dame football player.”