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Sean Oxley cherishes role on WOPU Nation during playing career

Mike Monaco | Thursday, November 17, 2011

Many kids grow up watching their favorite team play, and many of those kids dream of playing for that team one day. Only a fraction of them, though, actually get the chance to suit up and make it happen.

Despite growing up in Cleveland among Buckeye fans, senior walk-on linebacker Sean Oxley dreamt of donning blue and gold and playing football for the Irish.

“It’s been a dream come true for me,” Oxley said. “I grew up watching Notre Dame football. I loved Rudy growing up, so this was the dream.”

A love for the Irish runs deep in Oxley’s blood. His father played in the Notre Dame Marching Band as a student, and the rest of his father’s side of the family grew up as Notre Dame fans.

“I come from just a huge Notre Dame family,” Oxley said. “My Grandma was Irish Catholic so she loved Notre Dame. I was getting it from all angles from a young age.”

A three-sport athlete at Avon Lake High School in Ohio, Oxley always knew that football was his top sport. He spurned offers from a host of Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools, including Georgetown and many of the Ivy League universities. Although he did not receive a scholarship offer from Notre Dame, the allure of playing for his childhood team was so strong, that Oxley decided to attempt to walk-on.

“Ultimately, I got in here academically and [playing at Notre Dame] was the dream, so I passed up a lot of other opportunities to be here,” Oxley said. “I tried to entertain the idea of [playing elsewhere], but at the end of the day I knew where I was going to be.”

Oxley was invited to walk-on as a freshman and began practicing with the team on the first day of classes. For the first eight weeks, Oxley endured through a grueling schedule. He participated in two-hour workouts beginning as early as 5 a.m. Afterward, Oxley went to classes before heading out in the afternoon for practice with the team. For an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, the new routine was difficult.

“I’m not going to lie — it was a miserable time,” Oxley said. “It was a dream come true [to be on the team], but after a few weeks I was questioning whether I could stick with it.”

Oxley eventually found the support of both his family and his fellow walk-ons. The walk-ons grew particularly close over the course of four years. Part of that intimacy can be attributed to the brotherhood that is WOPU (Walk-On Players Union) Nation, a group of which Oxley is now the president.

“I can’t say enough about the walk-ons,” Oxley said. “WOPU is huge … the guys in there are amazing. Being a part of WOPU has been great in addition to being a part of the football team.”

Oxley and his fellow walk-ons love to see a member of WOPU get onto the field.

“It’s like when one of us gets on the field, all of us get on the field,” Oxley said. “Nobody is jealous or anything. Honestly we’re proud to see one of our own guys getting a look.”

Coming out of spring practice this year, Oxley was slated to play on special teams before tearing his ACL. After months of rehab, he made it back to full strength and dressed for the USC game.

Throughout his career, Oxley has never ceased believing that his time on the field will come. However, he still remains focused on fulfilling his lifelong dream — life after Notre Dame football.

The finance major recently accepted a job with the financial services firm Morgan Stanley. After graduating in the spring, Oxley will work in Chicago, where he has many friends including former Notre Dame receiver Barry Gallup, Jr.

The friendships Oxley has formed in South Bend, as well as all the other tremendous experiences he’s had, have resulted in a great four years. Oxley said he has come to fully appreciate just how special Notre Dame football is.

“I knew what I was walking into [when I came here],” Oxley said. “I enjoy feeling like week to week I’m contributing to something bigger [than myself].”