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Craig Cardillo: Anchor’s aweigh for wide out at season’s end

Ken Fowler | Friday, November 17, 2006

Craig Cardillo’s fifth year at Notre Dame has probably been his easiest.

The kicker-turned-receiver spent four years balancing schoolwork, football and one other major time commitment – Navy ROTC commitments.

But thanks to a rare Naval exception, he has spent this semester with “only” football and graduate classes on his plate. Cardillo’s just happy to have that opportunity.

“I didn’t know I was going to be able to come back,” Cardillo said.

But the Navy filled its incoming officer need from ROTC graduates across the country and afforded Cardillo a half-year reprieve from starting his four-year active service. He will have another four years of commitment to the military after his active duty ends.

Cardillo joined the Irish in the spring of his freshman year, walking onto the team as a place-kicker. He didn’t see action as a sophomore or junior and then switched to scout team wide receiver.

There, he made a mark.

He won the unit’s offensive player of the week award three times in 2005 – while preparing the Irish defense for Michigan State, Southern California and BYU.

Cardillo said he is used to people wondering how he managed all his time commitments while still dedicating himself fully to the team.

“Some of the things for ROTC are optional,” he said. “So it is manageable.”

Cardillo didn’t participate in most voluntary activities, including the color guard, which saved him time. And he said team workout sessions sometimes overlapped with ROTC physical training exercises, which lessened the load. But other days, he said, he couldn’t escape multiple running sessions and weight room work.

Workouts at Notre Dame were nothing new for him.

Cardillo attended Hauppauge High School in Suffolk County on Long Island. He played quarterback, receiver and kicker there and was an all-county selection in football as a senior. He also won all-league honors in basketball his junior and senior seasons.

After considering the naval Academy as a college destination, Cardillo jumped at the chance to go to Notre Dame. He majored in history and earned a 3.276 grade point average as an undergraduate.

In January, just a few days after the national title game, Cardillo will make his way to San Diego where he will begin his full-time Naval career on the USS Rushmore LSD-47, nicknamed “America’s Gator.”

He’s not sure precisely what position he will fill as a commissioned officer there because, he said, that boils down to one thing – what the ship needs.

“It’s pretty much on-the-job training,” Cardillo said.

And while official work duties will be substantial, Cardillo may get the chance to jump back over the basketball on the Rushmore. The Gators are 2-1 this season in the San Diego Naval Base basketball league, forfeiting in their only loss due to “an unforeseen incident,” according to the ship’s official Web site.

Football won’t be out of the picture, either. The ship has its own flag football team in a similar league.

But right now, Cardillo said, he’s worried about his next game.