Connor Cavalaris gains strong friendships, scholarship
Greg Hadley | Thursday, November 20, 2014
Connor Cavalaris has never questioned the path he is on, even as it has led him to stranger and stranger places.
While at Lake Forest (Illinois) High School, the senior cornerback drew interest from smaller FBS and Division-II schools. He could have played and possibly started for Ivy League teams. Instead, he chose to walk on at Notre Dame.
“I was on a visit here, and one of the coaches offered me a spot on the team as a walk-on,” he said. “It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. The academics, the prestige … the football tradition. It was somewhere I knew I wanted to be, and I couldn’t pass that up. It was an easy decision.”
Then, when he arrived in South Bend, Cavalaris was assigned, along with three roommates, to Carroll Hall, a 30-minute walk from the team’s locker room in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.
“It was a little chilly on those … walks to the east side of campus,” he said. “My first year, I was in a one-room quad with three other roommates, and you know, you meet guys from all different places around the world. That first freshman fall, you’re extremely busy, and you’re out of your comfort zone a little bit, and things are moving really fast.”His entire freshman season, Cavalaris never saw the field. In his sophomore campaign, he registered his first collegiate tackle against BYU on Oct. 20. Then, in his finest moment on the field for the Irish, he collected two of his seven career tackles during Notre Dame’s 42-14 loss to Alabama in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
In 2012, Calavaris played in 10 of Notre Dame’s 12 games on the run to the national championship matchup. As a junior, however, he took the field only three times.
Finally, before the 2014 season started, Irish head coach Brian Kelly extended a scholarship offer to Cavalaris, rewarding the walk-on for three years of dedication.
This season, Cavalaris has seen action in nine of Notre Dame’s games as one of four senior cornerbacks for the Irish, and he has recorded one tackle.
“We’re going to take each game one at a time,” Calavaris said. “We’ve got a really strong group of seniors and senior leadership. We’re going to go out there and make our teammates, our coaches and our fans proud. We still have a lot to play for.”
As a walk-on, Cavalaris said he has developed deep friendships with his fellow non-scholarship players, including former walk-on and senior linebacker Joe Schmidt, he said.
“Joe and I were on the same visit for the spring game of 2011,” he said. “We kind of became friends after that, and ever since, we’ve been really close. We’ve both had success on the field and off the field, and we live off campus together.”
As an accountancy major, Cavalaris has faced the usual struggle to balance athletics and academics but plans to put that major to use right away after he leaves college, he said.
“It’s all about time management and discipline,” he said. “Accounting is a pretty demanding and intense major, and being on the football team, you don’t exactly have a lot of free time, so you really have to be disciplined.
“I’m definitely interested in working in financial services or an accounting firm. I’m also interested in potentially in doing a Master’s program in accountancy or business administration.”
Through it all, Calavaris has never questioned his decision to come to Notre Dame. The thought of starting for other schools or attending other academically elite universities does not bother him at all, he said.
“I always knew in high school that I wanted to play college football,” Calavaris said. “Notre Dame nation is strong wherever you go, and you dream about being a part of something this amazing.
“Looking back [on my time here], it’s been incredible. The people you meet, the coaching staff … the teachers, your fellow students, the people in your dorm — it’s been incredible. Being on the football team, you meet guys from a lot of different backgrounds, and the relationships you build with coaches and teammates that last a lifetime are the best things to take away. It’s just been very rewarding.”