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Chris Bathon: Division III transfer found right atmosphere at ND

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, November 20, 2009

Defensive back Chris Bathon’s path to Notre Dame wasn’t a direct one from his hometown of Pleasantville, N.Y. But after playing football at Division III Carnegie Mellon as a college freshman, Bathon knew transferring to Notre Dame and trying out for the Irish squad was right for him.

“Football was a big deal in high school, and it wasn’t too different at Carnegie Mellon,” Bathon said. “I wanted to take a chance and come here, try out and I don’t regret it. I don’t know what I’d do without football.”

In high school, Bathon played both quarterback and safety, starting three of his four years. Close with his teammates and from a small town, many of his former teammates, coaches, friends and neighbors still kept tabs on him, first at Carnegie Mellon and now at Notre Dame.

“It’s a big deal in my town to play Division I at a school,” Bathon said. “Everyone from home follows me, will send me e-mails. I have four younger siblings and they’re always telling me of someone asking them about me or just keep[ing] up with Notre Dame football. It’s been a great experience.”

Coming from a small school to a much larger university was an adjustment, but not a difficult one for Bathon. Playing in a stadium like Notre Dame’s was a difference, though, he said.

“There is nothing like that in size at Carnegie Mellon,” Bathon said.

However, his experience playing there prepared him well to try out for the Irish team.

“I was not imtimidated,” he said. “Playing at Carnegie Mellon got rid of any nerves that I had. It was a big adjustment but nothing that I couldn’t handle. I was pretty confident coming from Carnegie Mellon and found I stacked up well athletically.”

The walk-on process did not phase Bathon much, either. Coming in as a sophomore, he found himself no more nervous than he would have been had he been at Notre Dame a year earlier, he said.

“Football is something I’ve played my whole life,” he said.

Bathon said the goal of donning the Irish blue and gold was a lifelong dream.

“I’ve always been driven to play Notre Dame football, and this was my chance,” Bathon said.

And when the time came sophomore year, Bathon was ready to take whatever the tryouts threw at him. The results are clear as he stands smiling after another grueling Notre Dame practice, but still can joke around with his teammates walking by.

“I thought I’d have to kick it into another gear at practice, to show myself to the other guys, but it wasn’t like that,” he said. “Everyone treats you just as well. You earn your respect from the other players and they earn yours. Everyone starts to realize who you are and that you can play.”

Although he is a walk-on, Bathon has found that the friendships made on the Irish team are some of his most valuable.

“Everyone here is my best friend,” he said. “Scholarship, recruit, walk-on — doesn’t matter. These guys are my closest friends.”

When faced with the question of what his life will be once the season closes, Bathon could only shake his head in wonder.

“I don’t know what life will be like without football,” he said. “I’m happy things worked out the way they did. It’s just football. At the end of the day, I realize I’m playing Notre Dame football and it’s a dream come true.”

His plans for when he leaves the familiar grounds of Notre Dame are working in the trading field closer to home and to his family. But he will take his three years at Notre Dame, and two seasons on the team, as well as the friends he has made, with him for the rest of his life.

“It’s been an experience I’m never going to forget,” Bathon said. “Sometimes I have to stop and get it back in my head that I’ve done this. I’m going to remember all the friends I’ve made here, the ones I see every day. The guys I’ve built up a relationship with, the ones I go out with and hang out with. It’s been a dream come true.”