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Justin Gillett: Interhall star joins team as QB at friend’s urging

Lorenzo Reyes | Thursday, November 15, 2007

In 2004, freshman quarterback Justin Gillett of Knott Hall was quickly turning some heads in interhall football. After leading his dorm to several victories and efficient passing performances, Gillett was just trying to make his way through college life as a freshman normally would.Then, one of his closest friends urged him to try for a walk on spot to the football team for Notre Dame. “I didn’t think I would ever play football,” Gillett said. “Playing in Knott was a fun experience. Once there was the coaching change and coach Weis came in, word of mouth spread that there were going to be open tryouts. One of my good buddies, John Lyons, who took a year off was planning on walking on and talked me into it, so it was an easy transition.”Gillett made the team his sophomore year as a reserve quarterback, and although he has never participated in any game action, he has contributed to the Irish program in practices.The one aspect of the entire process Gillett embraces is the friendships he has created and sustained on the team.”My family and friends were rooting for me,” Gillett said. “The guys who had my back were those that I was walking on with. The friendships – that’s what makes it worthwhile. We all shared a common goal, and achieving it with those people was the most rewarding part.”Gillett’s effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by his family members, and the walk-on senior is content with the joy and pride he gives them. “It’s nice to see how proud my family is of me,” Gillett said. “They see the glitz and glamour of the whole thing, and that’s what really makes me the most proud.”Although many players are in awe of walking through the tunnel for the first time, Gillett celebrates the moments with his teammates as the most memorable part of the experience. “I had never been in front of so many people,” Gillett said. “It was great. It was a little different, though, because I knew I wasn’t going to play. The fun part is hanging with your boys on the field during the games.”As his career winds down, Gillett isn’t nearly as concerned with getting substantial playing time as much as he is with winning games.”I’m not concerned about getting snaps to end the game against Duke or anything like that. It depends on what happens. I just want to feel good walking off the field for that last time,” Gillett said.After he graduates, the engineering major is looking to find a job but would like to relax a bit beforehand. “I’m looking forward to kicking back for a little while,” Gillett said. “Eventually though, I want a job within engineering.”Although Gillett one day plans on being successful, he notes that he has other priorities as well. “Football was a big part of my life, as was school and friendships,” he said. “But sometimes, you just have to take time out and give the ladies what they want.”With humor aside, in whichever path Gillett pursues, the one lesson he can take with him from his time at Notre Dame was the work ethic involved with the team. “The number one thing I can take is the work ethic,” Gillett said. “There were a lot of times when the workload was intense, and I had to devote hours to playing football and academics, but the support group of guys doing the same thing kept me going.”