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Martin Quintana: Parents encourage defensive lineman to keep trying out

Michael Blasco | Friday, November 20, 2009

The motto of St. Joseph High School, where Martin Quintana suited up for the Chargers, is Vincit Qui Laborat — “victory belongs to those who work.” No statement describes the senior defensive lineman better.

“I take a lot of pride in coming in every day and working my butt off,” Quintana said. “You’re waking up at 5:30 a.m. and not getting back until 8 at night. It’s challenging and it’s tough, but this has prepared me for anything that life will throw at me.”

In Quintana’s three years suiting up for the Irish, he has given the program everything he could, knowing that it would give him everything back in spades. Quintana, a Berwyn, Ill., native, is a walk-on senior with three seasons of experience at defensive line for Notre Dame.

Quintana, formerly of Stanford and then Duncan Hall, came to Notre Dame after attending St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Ill., on the west side of Chicago. He was drawn to South Bend by the same qualities that have called Domers for decades.

“There’s something special here. It’s something you want to be a part of,” Quintana said. “You come here, and you have an identity and a culture right away. It’s the community and the atmosphere. It’s so different than anywhere else.”

Quintana tried out for the Irish as a freshman, but was cut.

“I was decent in high school, and I tried out freshman year,” Quintana said. “I got cut and didn’t make it. The coaches, even though I got cut, said they liked me and wanted me to keep working hard at it.”

Despite the encouragement from the coaching staff, Quintana needed a little boost to keep going, which came in the form of his father.

“My dad really pushed me for it,” Quintana said. “He encouraged me to keep working hard. He kept my head up when I got cut, and he was the first guy that brought me back up from how I felt.”

Quintana brought his work ethic to the interhall fields as a freshman, playing for Stanford.

The 6-foot-1, 250-pound lineman was part of a dominant Griffins defense that surrendered only seven points in seven games, going 7-0 en route to a victory over Keenan in the Interhall Championship in Notre Dame Stadium.

With a season on the gridiron under his belt — and a taste of playing in the House That Rockne Built — Quintana took another shot at trying out for the varsity. This time, his tenacity and effort earned him a spot as a walk-on.

Who was happiest? Quintana’s parents, naturally.

“He was ecstatic,” Quintana said. “My mom was going around to everyone at work, saying how her son was playing for Notre Dame. They were so excited.”

Although he had played football at a high level for a long time, playing for the Irish was something different entirely. Quintana said being around guys like Pat Kuntz and other defensive linemen was surreal.

“I had heard a lot of stories about Pat Kuntz and some of the other guys,” Quintana said. “They were very intimidating guys. But they’re so fun, and I had so much fun around them. I tried to soak it all in.”

Quintana has spent his time playing for the Notre Dame scout team trying to soak in as much as possible, calling it an honor to be around the likes of defensive line coach Randy Hart and graduate assistant and four-time NFL all-pro Bryant Young.

“[Hart’s] been coaching for 40-plus and to hear all the knowledge and expertise that he brings to the table is incredible,” Quintana said. “Bryant has very high expectations, and he brings the best of you. He coaches me directly on the scout team, and getting coached along by a future NFL Hall of Famer is amazing.”

Still, Quintana said just putting on the uniform was the best part of his time at Notre Dame.

“It’s such a unique experience that only a few people get to be a part of,” Quintana said. “It’s a great feeling to say that I represent the University of Notre Dame football team.”

Quintana is a finance major and plans to work in that capacity after graduation.