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Andrew Plaska finds balance between academics and athletics

Emily Schrank | Thursday, November 17, 2011

For Andrew Plaska, life as a Notre Dame football player has been a balancing act, one that he’s learned to adjust to.

Plaska, a biology major, said despite the difficulties associated with his major, he has managed to handle all of his responsibilities, both on and off the field.

“Everyone I know at Notre Dame has something else going on too,” he said. “When I’m at practice in the afternoon, other people are still in class or are involved with other extracurricular activities.”

It’s a balance that Plaska said many of his other teammates have worked on too.

“All of the other guys are going to class and doing what they’re supposed to,” he said. “I’m not the only one with a lot on my plate, and once you figure it out, it’s not that bad.”

The Michigan native said his decision to come to Notre Dame was an easy one.

“I got into here and one other school [Michigan State], so there was really no debate,” he said. “There’s something about the place, that intangible Notre Dame spirit everyone talks about.”

Plaska said he first began thinking about trying out for the football team when he went home for Christmas break during his freshman year.

“I talked to some guys that I had played with in high school who were playing at other schools, and it really made me miss it,” he said. “I also played for my dorm [Siegfried Hall] during the first semester, but I wanted something more.”

When he got back to campus in January, he decided to go for it.

“It was kind of a spontaneous decision,” he said. “The worst they could do was say, ‘No,’ so I figured why not.”

Three months later, he was on the team.

“Running on the field and suiting up for the first time was an unbelievable experience — really just amazing,” he said.

Plaska, who made the team under former head coach Charlie Weis, said the coaching change did not affect the way he felt about his position on the team.

“You still have to go out there and give it your all, regardless of who’s the coach,” he said. “You’re still expected to do the same thing.”

Plaska said some of his favorite football memories include the team’s trip to El Paso, Texas, for the 2010 Sun Bowl and the friendships he has formed with other members of WOPU Nation, the Walk-On Players Union.

“It’s nice to have those guys you can count on, who don’t have a scholarship and had to try out just like you,” he said. “When you’re having a down day or one of the coaches is picking on you, they are there for you.”

Although many of the walk-on players Plaska is closest to have graduated, he said a strong camaraderie remains among the group.

“It’s nice to be here as the younger guys come in and you get to know them, especially knowing that you used to be one of the new guys,” he said.

Plaska added that one of his favorite aspects about his experience at Notre Dame has been life in the residence halls.

“Just living in the dorms and getting to know the guys in my hall has been one of the best parts,” he said. “That community is something that I think is really unique to Notre Dame.”

Plaska said he hopes the team will end the season on a high note.

“Of course going to another bowl game will be a great way to finish it off, and getting a chance to actually play in a game would be amazing in itself,” he said.

Plaska plans to attend medical school next fall and has been accepted to his top choice — the University of Michigan.

“Being on the football team and having that balance between academics and athletics is something that med schools look for,” he said. “This experience has really given me that.”