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Eric Maust: Baseball player walks on, wins starting role

Chris Masoud | Friday, November 20, 2009

Balancing the work load of a Notre Dame curriculum and an active social life can be quite a challenge for the average Domer. Try balancing that on top of commitments to the varsity football and baseball teams, and you have Eric Maust.

“My social life takes a huge hit, but I balance it,” Maust said. “Freshman year the increase in the academic load up from high school and then athletically the increase commitment-wise and time-wise, it was hard to juggle. But I can say that I’ve found the balance, and the challenges that I went through, that’s been the most rewarding thing. If it was easy, then it wouldn’t be as special.”

A scholarship baseball player and one of the Irish’s top pitchers heading into the 2010 season, Maust verbally committed to play baseball out of high school. But after seeing his first game at Notre Dame Stadium, Maust felt he had the skills to be a part of the Notre Dame football tradition.

“I had a couple of offers out of high school to play quarterback at some smaller Division-I AA and Ivy League Schools, but in my mind I was thinking I’m just playing baseball. But in my heart I couldn’t let football go,” Maust said. “So after the game I talked to the baseball coaches, they talked to the football coaches, so I walked-on and made the team.”

As the rule goes, walk-ons generally don’t see much of the field on Saturday afternoons, especially quarterbacks. Unable to continue at that position, Maust made the transition to punter and placeholder seamlessly. Backing up former Irish punter Geoff Price, Maust learned the intricacies of the position for almost two years before seeing his first game action.

“Being a specialist, it’s a tricky position because for the majority of the time you’re not playing, but you know you’re going to play at some point and you know your role is fairly important,” Maust said. “I try to have our special teams period in practice mimic the intensity of the game, so I’m trying to hype myself up every kick. I’ve never considered myself just a punter, I’ve always just considered myself an athlete.”

Maust’s athlete-mentality has come through on more than one occasion for the Irish in key situations in big games. Maust found the end zone following a bad snap during a field goal attempt in the first half against Boston College before the touchdown was called back. His completion to Robby Parris on a fake field goal play against USC, however, was not.

“I’m a real competitive guy, so we’d always have during practice throwing competitions,” Maust said. “The Thursday before USC week we had game-planned the fake, so everyone was trying to coach me, and Clausen’s giving me pointers. But in the game, when we just executed it perfectly, I’m going to be telling that story for a long time. That was game evidence that ‘Hey, I’m an athlete.'”

Like many players, Maust has drawn parallels between his experience on the gridiron and his experiences outside of football.

“The thing I like about Coach Weis is he’s very goal-oriented,” Maust said. “It’s always what’s the next step, because if you look at everything at a whole and don’t chop it up into pieces, it can really seam insurmountable at times. Each week there’s a goal, and at the end of the week you get to look back and see if you accomplished that goal, and that resonates with me because that’s the way I’ve structured my life.”

Majoring in finance and theology, Maust recognizes the value of a hard-earned education. Upon graduation, he plans on pursuing a professional baseball career. But wherever he goes, he will never undervalue the impact Notre Dame football has had on his life.

“My favorite moment is to know that my parents are in the stands too,” Maust said. “You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to exchange the experience I’ve had. It happens every time I put on the helmet. There’s nothing that can replace the feeling you get. Playing football period, cool. Playing for Notre Dame, wow, that’s awesome.”