Charlie Fiessinger makes most of experience as walk-on
Renee Griffin | Thursday, November 20, 2014
After deciding in his first semester at Notre Dame that “watching from the stands just wasn’t quite cutting it,” Fiessinger walked on to the team in the spring semester of his freshman year as a backup quarterback.
Fiessinger sat behind former Irish quarterback Tommy Rees and current senior quarterback Everett Golson during his career. The Mason, Ohio, native said getting to know such prominent players was one of the highlights of his time here.
“It was really cool to go from watching those guys to all of a sudden being teammates with them,” Fiessinger said. “But I think my favorite part of the whole thing was that … Notre Dame football players kind of have this aura about them, but you learn that they’re just regular guys like the rest of the students. Having both the experience of being a fan as a student and then being on the team, it’s been interesting comparing the two.”
Fiessinger’s main responsibility in games is to signal the play calls to the Notre Dame offense. As a result, his understanding of the game really grew over his three years on the roster, he said.
“My main role is to be the signal guy who signals in the plays to the offense from the sidelines,” Fiessinger said. “It’s kind of all I’ve ever known and all I’ve ever done. I’ve certainly grown up a little bit through that and learned the offense a little bit better. Now being a senior, one of the older guys, I’ve been able to help out the younger guys along the way as well.”
Signaling the plays can be a more difficult task than one might expect, Fiessinger said, especially when a crucial game is on the line.
“In a game, emotions can run high,” Fiessinger said. “You get really high, you get really low during a game. You have to keep an even head. It doesn’t matter if it’s fourth-and-goal against Florida State or the opening play of the game against Rice — the play’s got to be signaled in, and you’ve got to do your job.”
Fiessinger also said Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s reputation as a quarterback specialist is well-deserved, as he owes much of his development and improved understanding of the offense to Kelly.
“He’s an unbelievable teacher,” Fiessinger said. “His offense is very deep, very complex, but he does a great job of breaking it down step-by-step and explaining it to you. There’s nothing that we do that doesn’t have a reason behind it, and he’s very good at seeing the big picture and explaining to us where everything fits in.”
Fiessinger has taken snaps in a game just once in his career: in a 38-0 shutout of Wake Forest during Notre Dame’s 2012 run to the BCS Championship Game when he was a sophomore. He described it as his favorite memory as an Irish football player.
“It was a game that we won pretty handily, and I had a ton of family in town,” Fiessinger said. “It was the one game that I got into in my career. I got in, and then later on in the night, Kansas State lost and Baylor lost, and we became the No. 1 team in the country. That was an experience that I’ll always remember.”
Fiessinger emphasized that the lessons and experiences he has received as a member of the team would stick with him far past graduation.
“I was in a job interview earlier this year, and one of the descriptions of the job was ‘teamwork under pressure,’” Fiessinger said. “It asked, ‘Do you have any experience in that?’ and yeah, of course. Teamwork under pressure in the fourth quarter of a football game isn’t the same as the kind of pressure you’re going to have in a conference room at a job, but I think that adversity is similar, whether it be on or off the field. This team is very used to dealing with all the noise and channeling that out and focusing on our jobs.”
While playing football has given Fiessinger a host of unforgettable experiences, he said his love for Notre Dame centered not around football, but around the overall culture of the University: academically, athletically and otherwise.
“I love that regardless of what I’m doing, I’m always around people that are better than me,” Fiessinger said. “Football, I’m around a lot of people that are a lot, lot better than me, but it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. If I’m in classes, I’m around people who are academically better than me. If I’m at Mass, I’m around people who are spiritually better than I am. I’m around people who are better in community service than I am. Being around people who are better than me kind of challenges me, and I think it makes me a better person, too.
“The experiences I’ve had, the memories I’ll be able to look back on the rest of my life, it’s been unbelievable.”