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Andrew Nuss plays important role as lineman on special teams

Sam Gans | Thursday, November 17, 2011

When you take a look at 6-foot-5-inch, 303-lb. fifth-year senior guard Andrew Nuss, it’s easy to see a player who can take care of himself on the football field.

And yet, it was precisely the fear of injury that led to his father forbidding him to play the game at an early age.

“I only started playing football in my freshman year of high school,” Nuss said. “I wanted to play as a little kid but my dad just told me no, because he was afraid I was going to get hurt, so I stuck with baseball for the longest time. And then freshman year, [he let me] try out for the team. I thought I could be a quarterback but that didn’t work out so I played tight end and then sophomore year, I was the [varsity] starting left tackle.”

It was a good thing Andrew’s dad allowed his son to play the sport, as he soon began to receive numerous scholarship offers. The Ashburn, Va. native ultimately went against the grain when he decided to join former Irish coach Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.

“Everyone in my high school usually goes to Virginia Tech,” Nuss said. “So for me, I could have gone there to hang out with my friends, but I wanted to do something different and when Notre Dame came and offered me, I checked it out and I fell in love with the place and I knew this could help me out in the long run past football in terms of the academics.”

But with the commitment to Weis came the difficult adjustment to his firing after the 2009 season. Nuss, however, made the transition smoothly.

“It was tough when Coach Weis left because he brought me in,” Nuss said. “You develop a relationship with that person and all the coaches around you. And so it was unfortunate, but it’s part of the business. We had to change it up and then Coach Kelly came in and he’s done a great job and we’ve responded well.”

Nuss performed well enough on the field in his fourth year at Notre Dame last season that Kelly offered him the opportunity to return to the Irish for his fifth and final year of eligibility.

While senior Dayne Crist and sophomore Tommy Rees were in a highly-publicized battle during fall camp for the starting quarterback position, Nuss was engaged in a tough competition himself with junior Chris Watt for the starting left guard spot vacated by the graduated Chris Stewart. The first-stringer was not determined until less than two weeks before the opening game against South Florida, when Kelly named Watt the starter.

Despite the disappointment, Nuss, who has played a key role on special teams and in a rotating spot on the offensive line this season, has maintained focus on helping the team in whatever ways possible.

“I came back with the mindset, ‘alright, this is your last opportunity ever’. So I just came out and played the best I could each day,” Nuss said. “Watt’s a great player, I’m not going to deny that. We’re both great players. But for me, [I try] to give him support and to do what the team needs. That’s what Coach Kelly instills in us, saying that it’s not about individualism, it’s about helping the team out and [my goal is] whatever I can do to help the team out.”

With his football career soon to be complete, Nuss has thought about his future. The 2011 graduate with a degree in finance is currently in graduate school and wants to continue, but may need to take some time off before doing so.

“I want to do grad school, but I feel like I want to work first and get some experience and also save up so I can afford it, because my parents aren’t going to pay for it, so that’s something I have to do,” he said. “But I’ll probably do grad school after I work for a little bit.”

And while the end of football brings about a look toward the future, it also leads to reminiscing of the past. Big wins over USC and Miami during his time at Notre Dame — along with a trip to Hawaii for the Hawaii Bowl — have formed some of Nuss’ favorite memories. But what he will miss most is the bond between himself and his teammates.

“[I’ll miss] just being with the guys, to be honest,” Nuss said. “You do it for so long – and we’ve had seminars on how to transition – but you do it so long, it’s just what you become accustomed to. What you do in life every day basically is just hang out with the guys, doing this, doing that. It’s like on a scheduled program. But now, when you’re out in the real world, it’s by yourself.”