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Walsh adjusts to mixing school with sport

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The president of the Notre Dame Accounting Association didn’t make an appearance at the club’s concession stand in the hours leading up to kickoff against BYU this season. He had a pretty good excuse, though: Members of the varsity football team don’t have much free time on game days.

For senior linebacker – and Accounting Association president – Kevin Walsh, who walked onto the team at the beginning of this season, becoming a student-athlete in his fourth and final year at Notre Dame has been a crash course in balancing the different demands on his time.

“Now [my life has] much more structure and responsibility, more accountability to my teammates,” Walsh said. “Definitely I have to have better time management skills, because between the credits I’m taking and the football I’m busy from seven in the morning to seven at night.”

Walsh says that crossing the divide between athletes and non-athletes has changed the way he views the segment of the student body that has access to the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.

“I definitely have a lot more respect for the amount of time that it takes to be a student-athlete, and the ability that all my teammates have to balance school and athletics,” Walsh said. “And for them doing that for fours years – that’s amazing.”

Although Walsh hadn’t even considered trying to walk on to the team in previous seasons, he was friends with several players, including senior punter Ben Turk and senior long snapper Jordan Cowart. Walsh said they were the ones who told him he might have a shot as a walk-on.

“Well I know a couple guys on the team and then I got in contact with [director of football personnel] Tim McDonnell, and kind of worked it out through him,” Walsh said. “And [the coaching staff] emailed me before summer camp and told me there was a spot open.”

Although Walsh enjoyed his three years as a defensive end and linebacker playing for Keenan on Sundays, he said interhall football could not prepare him for what he would see as part of a Division I program.

“[Interhall’s] completely different, oh my gosh,” Walsh said. “I’m looking at it now, after I’ve been exposed to this so often, and it just seems like … it’s a whole new world.”

Walsh said that it took a little bit of time to get used to formal football after three years away from a varsity team.

“At first, it was definitely a curve,” Walsh said. “But I’ve been getting into it now and now it’s going well.”

As scary as the Irish defense has been for opposing teams this season, Walsh says that his new teammates have made him feel at home.

“Everyone’s so nice on the team, and they were so welcoming and so helpful, and you make so many new friends by joining the team,” Walsh said. “You spend so much time with these people that you develop relationships with them. All the defensive guys, all the walk-ons, we have a close bond because of all the scout team work we do.”

Although Walsh was not recruited to play football for the Irish, he never wavered in his desire to follow his grandfather and numerous other family members to Notre Dame, even if it meant that he would not play college football. He says that the opportunity to try out for the team so late in his college years came as a surprise, even to him.

“It kind of just sprung upon me,” Walsh said. “It’s my last year. I always kind of wanted to do it, every kid dreams about it.”

Although he never expected to join the football team, Walsh says that being able to run onto the same field that his grandfather played on decades ago has been one of his favorite parts of the entire experience.

“Definitely running out of the tunnel,” Walsh responded when asked about his favorite moment as a member of the team.

“My grandpa played here on a national championship team with his two brothers, and he passed away my freshman year and to be able to do this senior year is really special.”

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at     vjacobse@nd.edu