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irish insider

Jesse Bongiovi blazes his own path at Notre Dame

| Friday, November 18, 2016

Not many walk-on players get much attention.

Jesse Bongiovi, though, made a wave in the press when it was announced that he had made the Notre Dame football team hardly surprising when your dad is one of the world’s biggest-selling rockstars.

Bongiovi, senior cornerback and son of Jon Bon Jovi, remains more famous for his family connections than for his play on the field for Notre Dame. But he says that he has worked hard to carve out a path for himself instead of riding his father’s coattails.

“I haven’t really noticed too much of it, but I guess there’s a bit more attention there,” Bongiovi said. “It’s kind of happened my whole life, so people have always been talking about it. But I definitely try to be my own guy. I don’t ever try to be the guy who’s like ‘Oh, look at me, my dad is somebody,’ because it really has nothing to do with me. So I’ve always just tried to keep my head down, work as hard as I can and make it for myself.”

Irish senior cornerback Jesse Bongiovi warms up before Notre Dame’s victory over Miami at Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 29.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish senior cornerback Jesse Bongiovi warms up before Notre Dame’s victory over Miami at Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 29.

That’s not to say the “Livin’ on a Prayer” singer hasn’t had an impact on Bongiovi’s football career though. After all, it was a family trip to a Notre Dame game that truly made Jesse realize he wanted to attend, and play for, the University.

“When I was in eighth grade, I came to a game with my dad and basically I thought about how incredible it would be to go to Notre Dame and to be on the team and what an honor it is,” Bongiovi said. “Since I was a little kid I always wanted to be here. Tying that with the history and the academics and everything, it was kind of a no-brainer for me.”

Bongiovi fulfilled that childhood dream by walking onto the team his freshman year. However, after not seeing any game action in his first year and being kept out with an ACL injury in his second year, Bongiovi had to wait until his junior year to play in a game for the Irish, when Massachusetts visited South Bend and the cornerback saw time on special teams. Bongiovi said that although his impact was small, the memory will last forever.

“That was something I’ll never forget,” Bongiovi said. “Going out against UMass that year, we got to run down a kickoff and I didn’t even really do anything, but just kind of going out there was incredible. I was shaking like a leaf. I kind of forgot where to go and what to do because I was just taking it in. It was an unbelievable opportunity for sure.”

To reach that point, however, Bongiovi said he needed some guidance from some of the more experienced players, both other defensive backs and other walk-ons.

“Matthias Farley and Austin Collinsworth were both like big brothers when I first came here, and Joe Romano, who a lot of people don’t know but he was a senior walk-on when I was a freshman,” Bongiovi said. “A lot of those guys kind of took me under their wing and tried to just point me in the right direction and make sure that I was doing the right thing, really helping me get acclimated and figure out everything that was required.”

And in return, Bongiovi said he himself tried to mentor some of the current younger walk-ons.

“We had a kid come in this past spring, his name is Brian Ball, and I definitely took it upon myself to help him out, because it is hard, especially when you come in the spring, to get acclimated to all this,” Bongiovi said. “You’re kind of on the outside looking in. Guys have been there the whole season, they all already know each other and it’s hard to be the new guy. So now I try to play that role as a senior walk-on to help make sure the younger guys are doing the right thing.”

The next path for Bongiovi isn’t clear yet, but he said he is determined to continue to make it for himself.

“I’m looking to go into wealth management in some kind of investment bank,” Bongiovi said. “I’ve talked to a couple of firms, or I’m looking to work at a start-up.

“But I would like to move back to New York City for sure.”

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel