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Mike Grieco earns storybook ending against Air Force

Peter Steiner | Thursday, November 17, 2011

It all started with a transfer from Holy Cross to Notre Dame, which led to walking on the football team, which created one memorable play during his senior year — a storybook ending for senior punter and kicker Mike Grieco.

Grieco attended Holy Cross his freshman year, but always had his sights set on Notre Dame and the football program.

“I have loved Notre Dame since I was really young and always wanted to go here,” he said. “Ever since I started going to Holy Cross and didn’t have the grades to get in here, I knew that I had to have a new mindset and I knew that if I was going to transfer and do both with football and academics, I needed to be on top of my game.”

Grieco transferred to Notre Dame after his freshman year and immediately starting pursuing his next goal — playing for the football team.

“I tried to walk-on with [former Irish coach Charlie] Weis but they were in midseason and then the [coaching] transition happened,” he said. “I had a try-out in the spring of my sophomore year when the new staff came in. I tried out as a kicker and they wanted me to both punt and kick so I was happy to take any opportunity that I could get.”

In addition to Grieco’s own desire to play for Notre Dame, a former Irish football player also provided support and motivation.

“Former kicker Bob Thomas and his father actually first inspired me to kick and also encouraged me to try out at Notre Dame,” Grieco said.

Thomas was a place kicker for the Irish from 1971-73 and there was no better role model for Grieco than a former Notre Dame kicker.

After making the team in a backup role, Grieco finally received his moment to shine when he kicked an extra point in the Air Force game this year.

“Being able to kick an extra point, which [Irish coach Brian] Kelly and [special teams coach Mike] Elston agreed to let me kick with the help of [senior kicker David] Ruffer, was just an awesome feeling,” Grieco said. “Everything that I worked for just paid off and getting all the high fives from all the teammates was very cool.”

Yet, his journey has not been easy, requiring lots of dedication and hard work. In addition to achieving the grades needed to transfer to Notre Dame, Grieco has also had to balance practices with the rigors of the classroom.

“I have had to be organized and disciplined during both weekdays and weekends,” he said. “You have to sacrifice a few nights of partying here and there, but it has been well worth it.”

Time management is not the only lesson Grieco will take away from his time as a member of the team, as he has learned many things from both his teammates and coaches.

“Coach Kelly preaches attention to detail, discipline, both mental and physical toughness,” he said. “Those are great things that you can translate into your school work and after when you hopefully get a job.”

During the past two years having Kelly as a coach, Grieco said he realized Kelly’s ability to get the best out of his players is what makes him great.

“I think he is a great guy,” Grieco said. “He demands the most out of us and he pulls the most out of us. This team will definitely win a championship in the next few years and I really believe that.”

As his time as a player and a student at Notre Dame winds down, Grieco, a political science and sociology double major, is hoping to stay involved in sports, but from a different angle.

“After this year, I think I want to try to get into sports management,” he said. “I want to be an agent or work for the front office of a professional athletics team.”

Reflecting on his journey, Grieco said he has no regrets.

“The path was great and everything has worked in my favor, which I’m very thankful for,” he said. “Being able to play even that one play was awesome. When you are on the practice field and in the Stadium you can see Touchdown Jesus and the Dome, it just reminds you what you are playing for and working for.”