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Chris Salvi earns scholarship in final season

Nicole Michels | Thursday, November 15, 2012

For most people, simply playing football at the collegiate level is a dream come true.  Driven to challenge himself, graduate student safety Chris Salvi wanted more – he wanted to play football as a student-athlete at Notre Dame.  

As his final home game quickly approaches, the former walk-on Salvi will conclude his senior year at Notre Dame as a scholarship player who saw playing time on special teams and at safety. Earning a full scholarship for his senior year was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, Salvi said.

“Being able to get a scholarship is a great honor: there are only 80-some kids who get one, and [Notre Dame] is such a great school, such a great football program,” Salvi said.  “This was something that I wanted for a long time; it took an extra four years but it happened. I guess that could be a lesson to people who get discouraged: don’t give up.”

Salvi began his collegiate football career at Butler University, where he played in all of the team’s 11 games during his freshman season in 2008.

The 5-foot-10 native of Lake Forest, Ill., applied as a transfer student to Notre Dame, leaving a guaranteed roster spot on Butler’s football team in the fall of 2009. Salvi said he also transferred because he felt driven to challenge himself.  

“What motivated me was testing myself – at least my football abilities – and also being able to attend such a great academic institution,” Salvi said.
After receiving his acceptance to Notre Dame, Salvi contacted the football coordinator to ask for a tryout, only to endure a period of uncertainty while he waited for a response.

“They don’t get back to you right away, which is understandable because they have a lot to do,” Salvi said. “You just have to be relentless with getting in contact with them – I eventually did, and got a tryout. A week later I was on the team.”

Due to NCAA regulations, Salvi sat out his sophomore season and started playing the next year. Joining the team as a walk-on proved challenging, but his hard work on the practice squad eventually earned him recognition and a spot on special teams, where he contributed on the kick-off and kick-return teams.  
Salvi played in all 32 games to date. Salvi recorded some particularly critical plays on special teams, including a memorable block during Notre Dame’s game in 2011 against a 15th-ranked Michigan State that allowed George Atkinson to return a kick-off for a touchdown.  

Salvi took out two players at the Notre Dame 25-yard line with one block, allowing Atkinson to make a 89-yard touchdown run. Still, Salvi said one of his most memorable moment in his football career came a few games earlier.  

“The best memories I’ve had this season, but I would say that my favorite [individual] memory probably was my first tackle that I got when I was a junior against Pittsburgh,” Salvi said.  

For the Notre Dame-Navy game Oct. 29, 2011, Salvi was named a game day captain for the Irish. He said serving as one of the team’s gameday captains against Navy might be his best memory of his entire football career, even over the Michigan State block or his first tackle.

“That might be my best memory, actually … because it’s such a great honor that the coaches gave me, even more than the scholarship,” Salvi said. “Only so many guys get to be game day captain – even less than the number of scholarships on the team – so being game day captain is one of the best moments of my football career.”

Salvi said his closest bond is with his brother Will Salvi, a senior walk-on cornerback.

“I’m sure any guy on the team who has a brother would very much like their brother to be on the team with them – I’m sure the Atkinsons and the Martins can attest to that,” Salvi said. “Growing up together, we know each other better than anyone else, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to go through something difficult with a sibling … it’s that much more rewarding and you get to know them in a different way.”

Through the name on the front of his jersey and his position on the field have changed throughout his football career, for Salvi playing football is a return to the game he loved growing up.

“I’ve always had the same approaches, no real differences,” Salvi said. “I like to think that I’ve played this game the same way since I’ve been a little kid: as hard as I can and trying to have fun.”

In last year’s offseason, Salvi competed in the Bengal Bouts boxing tournament and was the champion of the 188-pound division. Though he plans to compete again this year, for now he said his focus is entirely on relishing his final collegiate football games.

“I’m going to miss my teammates and being able to legally hit people,” Salvi said. “It’s an outlet for frustration, when you start practice or a game you think about nothing else which is awesome – everyone should have something like that in their life.”

To future football players thinking about trying out for the team, Salvi had one piece of advice: Go for it.

“It’s going to be a tougher road throughout college, but it’s going to be worth it,” Salvi said.  “Don’t get discouraged, believe in yourself, keep confident and don’t be afraid to go for it.”

Contact Nicole Michels at