The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Michael Planalp: Walk-on plans to put goods hands to use

Joe Meixell | Thursday, November 15, 2007

For the first half of his life, Michael Planalp’s idea of football included shin guards and corner kicks. Planalp was raised in Virginia Water, a small town about 30 miles west of London, England.

“I never really watched football until I moved back here, just before high school. That’s when I started playing football,” he said.

Planalp and his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he started playing football for Wyoming High School. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior played on the offensive line during his high school career before switching to tight end at Notre Dame.

“I wasn’t always the great player that a lot of the guys on our team are,” Planalp said.

Planalp came to South Bend with no plans to continue his football career but could not stay away from the game for long.

Planalp’s first time on the field at Notre Dame Stadium came during his freshman year while playing for the Knott interhall team. The Juggerknotts lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Keenan in the championship game that year.

Shortly afterward, Planalp decided that he would try to walk on to the team. He decided the thrill of playing for the Irish was worth the time commitment and hard work he was going to have to put in.

“You get to go out and play everyday with a gold helmet on,” Planalp said. “I’ve loved Notre Dame football my whole life, so that’s just really cool.”

For the past three years, Planalp has balanced practice time with the work load of a student heading to medical school.

When all is said and done, Planalp hopes to be a surgeon and is currently applying to medical schools to take the next step. His top choices include Stanford, Northwestern and Cincinnati.

His work on the football field has helped him off the field as well. At a recent interview with Cincinnati, the interviewer was also a player in college and helped to give him an instant connection.

“He said it reinforced his knowledge of me. He understands how much time it takes up,” Planalp said. “It was really nice being able to talk to him about that.”

Planalp has also padded his resume with internships over the past couple of summers. He worked with ophthalmologists in Cincinnati and at the University of Michigan to help with research on retinal degeneration.

Planalp believes that his experience as a walk-on will also help him keep his nose to the grindstone while trying to make a name for himself in the medical world.

“It helps you because being a walk-on, you’re not a stud on the team. You get to kind of experience knowing your role, going there day in and day out and doing what’s best for the team, not always making the big difference, but you know your role is important,” he said. “I think that’s pretty much what the medical career is going to be, up until you make a name for yourself.”