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Bill Flavin: Long snapper exceeds even his own expectations

Meaghan Veselik | Thursday, November 11, 2010

A well-rounded Notre Dame experience is all Bill Flavin wanted when he stepped on campus four years ago as a student, but as he moved his belongings into the fourth floor of Keough Hall, Flavin never expected he’d one day be the starting long snapper for the Irish.

It’s a story that began his freshman year in the same dorm hallway where he still lives today, and one that ended two weeks ago when his ankle broke in the first quarter. Although it ended prematurely, Flavin said he’ll never forget experiencing a walk-on’s dream.

“I walked on in the spring of my freshman year,” he said. “It’s been a dream to come to Notre Dame since I was a little kid. My dad came here and I’ve been coming to football games my whole life. I didn’t really think about [walking on] coming out of high school, I just thought I’d be done.

“But then [graduated Irish player] Mike Anello, he was a walk-on and was a junior when I was a freshman, and he was in Keough and lived in my section, and he said, ‘Did you ever think about walking on?’ And I said, ‘Well, kind of, I mean I can long snap alright, so might as well try.'”

Another hallmate and friend, Dan Brennan, also pushed Flavin to try out and seconded Anello’s encouragement.

“I was on the fence but [Brennan] was like, ‘just do it, you got nothing to lose. Even if you don’t make it, you’ll just be back here, where you are now,'” Flavin said. “So I took his advice to heart, and I gave it a shot and here I am now.”

Some things Flavin didn’t think about when he took that advice: early morning practices walking through snow, tough workouts that are expected to fit in around hours working in the summer, astrict weight training regimen, and the hours necessary to put in outside of class and a social life. But standing on the field and playing in front of thousands of cheering fans makes it all worth it for Flavin. Especially since he was not a recruit but rather a respected member of the WOPU Nation.

“The WOPU Nation is the Walk-On Players Union,” he said. “It’s just the group of walk-on players — like we have each other’s backs all the time and we all went through the same things to make it. We’re all dedicated people off the field and on the field. It’s a really cool group of people to be a part of and they’ve been my best friends for three years.”

Being part of the WOPU Nation and growing to have a leadership position on the team in his senior season has added to Flavin’s experience. Working up to the top is nothing new for him, however, as he has held leadership positions before. This time, he said the drive to lead came from his desire of once more achieving his own goals and to help Notre Dame do well.

“I’ve been a Notre Dame fan my entire life, and obviously, no one enjoys seeing Notre Dame lose or not play a complete game to teams that [it] should beat, so the overall desire is to help the team win and to get the team back to where it should be” he said. “I think the difference between a leadership role on the football team at Notre Dame to a role in student government or whatever else I’ve been involved in, is that with this, the group of people you’re with, it’s an incredibly motivated group. It doesn’t take much to catalyze that effort. It’s kind of leadership by example; working hard and doing things right every day, everybody gets caught along for the ride.”

Flavin leads by example in the campus science labs as well, where he has been studying biochemistry in hopes of attending a MD/PhD program next fall to pursue a career that combines a love for research with patient care. Where he will end up is yet to be determined, but Flavin has submitted applications to schools such as Northwestern and Stanford.

How Flavin handles it all is something that would have been a mystery to even himself when he stepped onto campus, but now, he wouldn’t have preferred it any other way.

“Whenever I’m busier, I’m able to accomplish more. If you would have told me I’d be doing all the things I’ve been doing, I would have told you, when I first started, I would have said that’s nuts, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he said. “But I think I’m able to do more when I’m involved with more. It’s cool to be able to go from a football practice at the Gug to a lab in Jordan or things like that. I think I’ve seen a broad piece of Notre Dame over the last four years and it’s been great.”