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Jonathan Frantz fulfills dream after waiting two years

Walker Carey | Thursday, November 17, 2011

Senior walk-on outside linebacker Johnny Frantz was born with Notre Dame in his blood.

His father, Michael, was a walk-on defensive end with Ara Parseghian’s Irish in the early 1970s and earned a letter as a senior in 1972. Frantz’s ties to Notre Dame contributed to his strong fandom from an early age.

“I grew up always watching and rooting for Notre Dame,” Frantz said. “And always rooting against everyone else.”

Frantz arrived on campus in the fall of 2008 and spent two seasons in the student section cheering on his beloved Irish. But when the spring of 2010 came around, the then-sophomore set his sights on walking on to the football team he grew up cheering for.

“Throughout that spring, I began communicating with the program about the possibility of walking on,” Frantz said. “Then in the fall, they brought me in for some early morning skill sessions like catching some passes and whatnot. They really wanted to see how I was on my feet and how I moved.”

Before arriving at Notre Dame, Frantz attended Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland — the same high school former Irish players Robby Parris and John Ryan attended, as well as Frantz’s current teammate, junior inside linebacker Dan Fox.

“Seeing those guys come from my high school and play here, especially defensive guys like John Ryan and Dan Fox, was a big part of making me decide that I wanted to walk-on,” Frantz said. “Watching those guys [Parris and Ryan] play here was great and playing with Fox has been great. They are all great guys.”

The experience of playing for the Irish and the relationships he has formed on team is not something Frantz will ever forget.

“The whole experiencing of playing with everyone and the feeling of brotherhood has been incredible,” Frantz said. “Being part of something that I have always dreamed of and having the opportunity to be with these guys every day has just been fantastic.”

Notre Dame walk-ons are known for the camaraderie that exists among them and Franz said he has also savored that part of the experience.

“Being a part of WOPU (Walk-On Players Union) has been great,” Frantz said. “I actually live with [senior walk-on] Pat Coughlin and [senior walk-on] Sean Oxley and those guys have been here longer than I have, but they have been great in bringing me into the whole WOPU experience and making me a part of it. I have really enjoyed my experience in WOPU.”

Away from the football field, Frantz’s most memorable Notre Dame experience came during his junior year when his parents came in from Cleveland for Junior Parents Weekend.

“Having my mom and my dad come up was great,” Frantz said. “The JPW Mass especially was memorable. That whole weekend with my parents was just fantastic. Just being able to spend time with them at a place we have all loved so much for so long was truly memorable. Notre Dame did a great job putting it all together. It was exactly what I expected though. Notre Dame always does a real great job in planning events.”

Frantz, who is an economics major, plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a lawyer.

“I know that I will be going to law school next year,” Frantz said. “I am still trying to figure out where, as I continue to get my applications done. I took the LSAT on Oct. 1 and am still waiting for that score to come back, but I am sure it will all come into place.”

Even though he is looking to be closer to a bigger city, Frantz will not rule out Notre Dame as a potential law school destination.

“I am definitely going to apply [to Notre Dame] for sure,” Frantz said. “I am looking to get to a bigger city though. Nothing against South Bend, it is a great city, but I eventually want to be in a bigger market.”