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Patton tranfers from Holy Cross, walks on

Laura Coletti | Thursday, November 15, 2012

“Have courage to pursue dreams.”

These are the words etched on the inside of senior defensive end Grant Patton’s class ring. They are words the Louisville, Ky., native has lived out since he made the best decision of his life the day after his high school prom four years ago.

“I did what every red-blooded American male does after prom, and that is, jump in the car and drive four-and-a-half hours to the Blue-Gold game,” he said.
Originally slated to join the track and field program at Louisville as a thrower, Patton found himself at a crossroads at the Notre Dame bookstore that weekend in May.

“I saw a Notre Dame alumni shirt, and I had the realization that I’d never get to wear one,” he said. “I had grown up going to Notre Dame games my entire life, and that was where I wanted to be.”

Within 72 hours, Patton had applied, been accepted to, and enrolled at Holy Cross. Since that point in his college career, Patton’s story has run in the same vein as the classic movie “Rudy.”

“To this day, my dad calls [my story] ‘the Rudy thing,'” he said.

Patton interned with the Notre Dame athletic department and applied to transfer to Notre Dame for the fall of his sophomore year. After being rejected, he again applied to transfer that fall, to begin at Notre Dame during the spring semester of his sophomore year. Once again, he was not accepted.

“In this whole process, I learned a lot about perseverance, and about really going after what I wanted,” Patton said.

Almost eerily similar to the movie’s eponymous character, on his third and final time applying to transfer, Patton’s perseverance paid off. He was accepted to Notre Dame and started there the fall of his junior year.

“I called my mom and told her. She thought I was kidding,” he said. “There were a lot of people who didn’t think I’d ever do it. Especially with football, there were a lot of people who thought I wouldn’t get this.”

After spending the fall semester playing interhall football for Sorin College, he walked on to the football team in the spring. The entire experience went by like a whirlwind, Patton said.

“Monday I found out I made the team, Tuesday I got my equipment, and Wednesday I was put up against Tommy Rees and the Notre Dame offense,” he said. “It was like drinking water through a firehose.”

In spite of the rapid turn of events, Patton found himself welcomed by the team more than he ever imagined he would be.

“The first thing I saw was how close this team is, and how great each and every one of the guys is, and just how welcoming they are,” Patton said. “For them, there is no ‘scholarship’ versus ‘no-scholarship’. It was everything I could have imagined it being, not just because of the football, but because of the brotherhood of that football team that you hear so much about. As a fan, I’d heard it and kind of believed it, but when I saw it in real life it was everything and so much more.”

From day one, Patton has embraced his role on the team.

“I’m there, and I’m whatever the team needs me to be,” he said. “If that means I’m a cheerleader on the sideline waving my helmet around, I’m that. If that means I’ve got to be a tackling dummy, I’m that. If I’ve got to be on scout team defense, I’m that. Everyone has a role.”

And although this is his only year as a member of the team, he is enjoying the special season the squad is having.

“This whole season has been defined as doing it the Notre Dame way,” he said. “Whether it’s a last-second drive, whether it’s grinding out a win, whether it’s running the football and only throwing it a few times in a half, [Irish coach Brian Kelly] has really got this team to find an identity that fits Notre Dame, and I’m just so proud to have a small part of that.”

Patton was quick to acknowledge the outpouring of support he received from his friends and family.

“I’m standing here as a culmination of a lot of people. I wouldn’t have been here without a whole army of people to help me fight on to get here,” he said. “It’s been an incredible honor just to put on the helmet, an incredible honor to run out of the tunnel, and I do it every day for my family, for my friends, and for those who always dreamed of going to Notre Dame. Because I’m living proof that if you want it, and if you work hard enough, your dreams really can come true.”

Contact Laura Coletti at
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