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Red Army’ leader Matt Mulvey earns fame due to sideline role

Sarah Mervosh | Thursday, November 17, 2011

He may not start on Saturdays, but he gets more camera time than most.

When the Irish are on offense and the camera zooms in on Irish coach Brian Kelly, keep an eye out for senior walk-on quarterback Matt Mulvey — he’s hard to miss.

Wearing the signature red quarterback cap, Mulvey sticks close to Kelly during games and can be seen waving, tapping and gesturing as he sends in play signals each down.

“I feel more like a coach now and I’ve really fully dived into this role,” he said. “It has been such a treat to be more a part of the offense, to be more a part of the team and try to help out as much as I can.”

But it’s not an easy job. As the leader of the “Red Army,” Mulvey is responsible for remembering over 300 signals and communicating them to the quarterback on the field during what is often a fast-paced offense.

“We practice it so much that it really is muscle memory and second nature to us,” he said. “I love when we’re moving fast because I know that we have to get on what my part of the job is and I have to stay mentally sharp.”

The Del Mar, Calif., native arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman with the opportunity to try out for the football team, but with no guarantees of success. On his first day of classes, Mulvey was told he made the team.

“[I] went into the locker rooms for the first time and felt that sense of fraternity and felt that sense of team,” he said. “Coming out from San Diego, it’s coming a long way out here to South Bend. It was just nice to have 105 other guys, and it was just so much fun right off the bat.”

Three years later, the walk-on has found himself a niche as the leader of the “Red Army” and stumbled upon a little bit of fame in the process.

The “Red Army” began during Mulvey’s sophomore year as a sort of “quarterback fraternity” named after the red jerseys quarterbacks wear in practice. The group has taken off since then, acquiring a bit of a fan club.

“I think one of the funniest things was last year during Halloween when four girls dressed up like [us.] That was pretty funny,” Mulvey said. “And then one of my friends was me for Halloween that year too.”

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Mulvey created his own “cult and fan club with the red hat brigade.”

“His impact is that, you know, he understands our offense very well,” Kelly said. “He’s part of our signaling crew, and he just has a great personality that fits in with what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis. We ask him to do a lot of preparation during the week to help in all of our offensive play calling, and he’s done a great job.”

Part of that preparation includes helping to think of new play signals. Mulvey, whose favorite signal is the awkward turtle hand motion, said he takes an entertainment approach when coming up with signals.

“We get them from movies. We get them from funny gestures, funny things,” he said.

The position also allows Mulvey to get to know his head coach on a personal level.

“Me and coach Kelly have a really great relationship,” he said. “I’m the closest one to him every single game. We really do get to talk to each other a lot and get to know each other.”

Mulvey, whose mother was in the first graduating class of women at Notre Dame, said his family will be in attendance for Saturday’s game against Boston College. The walk-on said he would love the opportunity to switch roles and be the quarterback on the field receiving the play signals.

“To get out there and have a meaningful snap [would be the] culmination of my four years here,” he said.

But Mulvey has always put the team’s success over his own.

“Anything I can do to help the team, that’s absolutely what I’m going to do,” he said.

After graduation, Mulvey will bring his talents to investment banking and begin working for FT Partners. However, he hopes to leave the legacy of the Red Army with the football program.

“I hope it’s something that sticks around for a while because it does support that fraternity atmosphere and the team atmosphere,” he said. “That’s really what it’s about.”