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Barry Gallup, Jr: Wide receiver starts own tradition on the field

Bill Brink | Friday, November 20, 2009

Those F-18 Super Hornets that buzzed Notre Dame Stadium before the Navy game can put nine times the force of gravity on the pilots during tight turns and loops. Intense, right?

Sort of.

Consider: the players on the field below can generate up to 100 times the force of gravity when they hit and tackle each other. The pinnacle of these hits, naturally, occurs on kickoff coverages, when both units sprint as fast as they can directly at one another.

At the center of this maelstrom is wide receiver and return man Barry Gallup, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds of speed and quickness. It’s OK, though, because he’s got the mentality for the job.

“It’s real violent out there,” he said. “I’m a pretty violent person so I don’t mind that.”

Football isn’t the only violent sport Gallup has played. Growing up in Wellesley, Mass., he was a right wing in hockey, which he played year-round. While similarities between a game played on grass and one played on ice are rare, some skills translate, Gallup said.

“I feel like hockey requires a lot of balance, and also you have to play tough to play hockey,” he said.

Gallup balanced playing hockey, football and track at Belmont Hill H.S., but when it came time to pursue a sport in college he went with football — and he went against the family. His father, Barry Sr., played football and basketball at Boston College and now is the director of football operations there.

“We definitely have some fun conversations at the dinner table,” Gallup said. “Obviously it’s a great rivalry. It’s a lot of fun. That game’s always circled on my calendar.”

Barry Sr. didn’t push for his son to attend Boston College, instead leaving it up to him. Gallup said he chose Notre Dame when he fell in love with the school during his official visit.

“Coach [Charlie] Weis, I knew because he was with the [New England] Patriots [as offensive coordinator from 2000-04] and I was a big Patriots fan,” Gallup said. “It was a combination of those things and just the feeling I got when I came here, it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Upon arriving in South Bend, Gallup saw the truth behind college football — never-ending hard work.

“You don’t realize these guys are working out 6 a.m. every day,” he said. “You come in the summer, no one’s really on campus, you’re working out in the morning and going to classes. It’s really a full-time job.”

The ends justify the running and lifting and practice and meetings, however.

“I feel all the work is definitely worth it, to put on that helmet and run through the tunnel,” he said.

Gallup didn’t see the field his freshman year, but played on the special teams units in 2007. In 2008, despite missing four games because of an ankle injury, he made 49 special-teams appearances.

That injury hindered his speed, which he called his biggest asset. He worked out in the offseason with the trainers and strength coaches to build the speed back up.

Gallup plays with some fast guys, but he feels he should be right up there.

“We got some fast guys but I’ll never concede that someone’s faster than me,” he said. “I don’t know how many races I’ve lost but it’s not too many.”

This season, an early injury to fullback and return man James Aldridge gave Gallup a chance to return kickoffs. Against Michigan, he capitalized. After Michigan threw a touchdown pass to take a 24-20 lead in the third quarter, Gallup caught the ball at the 3-yard line and took off straight up the middle of the field for a 52-yard return.

“I made a big play and I was hoping to spark a big comeback,” he said. “I can make people miss in space.”

Gallup has run back seven kickoffs this season and averages 22 yards per return. That 52-yard return is the longest for the Irish of the season and the longest since Armando Allen ran a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown in Notre Dame’s 49-21 Hawaii Bowl victory over Hawaii on Dec. 24, 2008.

That return, and everything he’s done on the field this season, come from the hard work he’s done while at Notre Dame. Even though the environment was originally not something he was used to, he said he kept working for his chance.

“I came from a school in Massachusetts where they don’t produce a lot of big-time football players,” he said. “There weren’t any Brady Quinns or Jeff Samardzijas at my high school.
“It’s been a long time coming, a lot of long hours when you’re thinking what am I getting out of this? [But] I’ve always kept my nose to the grindstone.”

Gallup graduated from Notre Dame in three years and was accepted to Notre Dame’s graduate MBA program, but deferred it for a year so he could focus on getting on the field and recovering from his ankle injury. He someday wants to own his own company and said he could see himself going into the business side of sports.

He stays in close touch with his mom, dad and sister, a condition for him going to school far from home, and cherishes the relationships he’s formed.

“You create so many special bonds and we have so many great guys on the team that I’m going to miss that,” he said.

Mostly, he’ll remember the final minutes before game time, after he’s put in the work but before he takes those staggering hits, when he runs out of the tunnel onto the field.

“It’s unbelievable every time you run out there,” he said. “I never take it for granted.”