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Walk-on joins Irish heading into senior year

Mike Ginocchio | Thursday, November 21, 2013

Will Cronin came to Notre Dame the way most students do: To be a member of the student body and to cheer for, but most likely never play for, the football team. 

For three years, that’s how it went. The senior finance major was content playing as the interhall quarterback for Alumni Hall, his dorm. It might have ended there, except over this past summer he got a call many would dream of but would never expect to receive: an invitation from the football team.

“They were down two [quarterbacks], and they needed somebody to come in and play scout team,” Cronin said. “I guess they heard about me through interhall and then got my e-mail address along with a couple of other kids. [Over the summer], they just asked us to send in some high school footage of ourselves and some videotape of us doing quarterback drills. So I sent that in and they got back to me later that same day and said, ‘We’d like you to come in to camp with us.'”

And that’s how Cronin, who in four years at Immaculate Conception High School in Elmhurst, Ill., led his team to the 2008 Class 2A state championship, found himself on the sideline for the Irish. Both he and his family were blown away, he said.

“I didn’t really have time to let it all sink in, and you know it just went at a million miles an hour,” Cronin said. “[My family] … they were so excited. No one could really believe it. They were all just in shock. Going from interhall to suddenly being on the varsity team … it doesn’t quite make sense.”

Cronin also noted the warm welcome he received from the other quarterbacks such as senior Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix.

“Those guys have been great and extremely welcoming,” Cronin said. “They came up to me right away when I got here and introduced themselves and we’ve gotten along great ever since it started.”

Cronin isn’t just a man to fill out the roster, however. He is tasked every week with mimicking the styles and mannerisms of each opposing quarterback the Irish have faced this season. When posed with the fact that he plays an integral role for the Irish, Cronin is decidedly modest.

“I just kind of do what I’m supposed to do,” Cronin said. “I just get in there and watch film with the other scout team guys and we do our best, stay focused and get the defense as ready as it can be for the next game. And at the end of the day, that’s all we can do to get these guys ready.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been memorable quarterbacks he’s gotten to shadow.

“My favorite [to mimic] was the quarterback for Arizona State: Taylor Kelly,” Cronin said. “Typically they would have four or five receivers and we would just get to sit back and dissect the defense and let the ball fly. So that was a lot of fun. I would say [the hardest was] probably [Oklahoma redshirt junior] Blake Bell. We have completely different statures, and I would say his job is to be kind of a power runner in their offense. A lot of that rode on us to run a lot of read option and trying to run hard. At my stature it’s a little difficult to do.”

Cronin is listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, while Bell checks in at 6-foot-6, 252 pounds.

Yet even though Cronin was a member of the team all through camp and into the school year, it didn’t hit him until week one as the team made the walk from the Guglielmino Athletic Complex out to the field. 

“I just remember as we got closer to the stadium and it got more packed and packed with people,” Cronin said. “And right as we were about to walk to face the speakers out towards library quad, it started blasting ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’ and I got chills up my spine.

“Before that, it kind of just felt like I was here just helping them out as a sub and didn’t really feel like I was a ‘part’ of the team. And then that happened.”

After the year comes to an end, Cronin has already thought about his future. He has spent the past two years working for a commercial real estate firm and has made plans to become a broker in the same field. But no matter what the future holds, he will look back fondly on his miraculous chance to extend his football career.

“I try to take a moment every now and then to just appreciate what I’m doing and what I’m experiencing,” Cronin said. “What I’ll remember most is the camaraderie between the guys and being on a team again. Interhall is great and I had a lot of fun doing that, but when there’s a lot more riding on each game you tend to form a deeper bond with your teammates. I think that’s what’s been the most fun – being in that intense team atmosphere again, just appreciating the little things.”

Contact Mike Ginocchio at
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