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Chris Skubis: Lineman spends time with linemates on, off field

Sam Gans | Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rarely is a man who is six-foot-two and weighs in at 232 pounds considered small.

One of the few exceptions is when he is a defensive end for Notre Dame.

While the thought of facing men nearly 100 pounds bigger might intimidate some people, Christopher Skubis relishes the opportunity of going up against Notre Dame’s offensive line every day in practice.

“It was a tough adjustment at first going against offensive tackles who are 310 [pounds] or 320,” Skubis said. “It was a challenge every day to come out here, but I’ve been getting better and I’ve had a blast doing it. It’s nice to get in there and try to throw my weight around a little bit.”

Skubis, a walk-on, came to Notre Dame as a typical student. He did not play for the team as a freshman, and didn’t try out until his sophomore year, after a season of interhall football, when he felt the urge to attempt something bigger and better.

“My freshman year, I played interhall, but something was missing,” he said. “It wasn’t as competitive as I had hoped. I loved interhall, but I thought I could do something more.”

While he has to fight on the field now to make up for his size disadvantage, he had to battle even harder just to make the team. Tryouts took place in the spring and were an agonizing process, filled with many demanding workouts.

“It was a brutal process back under [former Irish] coach [Charlie] Weis,” he said. “They really beat the crap out of us, and they had us in here five days a week at five in the morning. They worked us to the bone.”

Skubis stuck it out, though, and became one of about 10 players out of the 50 from his class who tried out to make the squad. Though he was a walk-on, the scholarship players instantly embraced him as a member of the team.

“All those guys took me under their wing,” he said. “They showed me what was expected and taught me the plays.”

Not only were the other defensive linemen helpful to him on the field, but he became friends with them off the field, as well.

“I never thought I’d be running around with [senior nose guard] Ian Williams and [junior defensive ends] Ethan [Johnson] and Kapron [Lewis-Moore], and we’ve actually become really great friends,” he said. “Last spring break, I was down in Florida with those guys. It’s just opened a lot of doors for me, and I’ve met a lot of great people that I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to.”

Though Skubis has not made a huge impact for the Irish on the field, he and the rest of the senior walk-ons have helped to make their own large contribution to the program, through the Walk-On Players Union (WOPU), a group that unites all the walk-ons and brings them closer.

“WOPU has grown in strength,” he said. “Back in the day, no one really heard of it and part of our senior class goal was to get the word out there and make it one of those powerful groups on campus. It’s on the rise. We already got a hold of those new guys, teaching them our ways, showing them what’s expected, and they’re going to keep the tradition going.”

A double major in accounting and economics, Skubis plans to head south to Atlanta after graduation to work in auditing — and to escape the cold.

“I’m from Buffalo, and then coming to South Bend, I’ve gotten my fair share of snow,” he said. “So I figure I’ll go down there with nice, warm weather and enjoy the heat for a while down in SEC country and represent Notre Dame.”

But before he does that, there is still some more football to be played and memories to reflect on.

“I’ve gotten to experience so much by running out of that tunnel and being out there on the field for warm-ups,” he said. “It’s just incredible, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”