Chase Hounshell stays positive despite injuries
Benjamin Horvath | Thursday, November 20, 2014
Most college football players would consider just one shoulder labrum tear a major setback, possibly even a career-ending injury.
Senior defensive lineman Chase Hounshell has experienced this painful injury three times during his career at Notre Dame.
Born and bred in the heart of Big Ten football country, the Kirtland, Ohio, native was one of the state’s top players in high school. In 2010, the Lake Catholic High School alum earned AP Ohio Division II co-defensive player of the year honors.
The versatile lineman entertained offers from Notre Dame and Big Ten schools, like Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin. Hounshell surprised many, however, when he committed to Florida.However, after former Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s abruptly retired prior to the 2010 season, Hounshell decommitted from Florida and decided on the Irish.
“You could really feel a family atmosphere here at Notre Dame, and I had great opportunities to connect with teammates and coaches prior to beginning my career,” Hounshell said. “That’s what ultimately drew me to this school.”
During his freshman year, Hounshell saw action in seven games for the Irish because of injuries to some key defensive lineman.
“I didn’t really expect to play as a freshman, so that came as a surprise to me,” he said.
Hounshell first saw game action in front of a sold-out Notre Dame Stadium crowd on an unseasonably warm and sunny Saturday in October, during a contest against Air Force.
“Stepping out onto that field was something I’ll probably never forget,” Hounshell said. “Being out there with my teammates, hearing the crowd and having my parents and family in the stands, that’s something you can’t get anywhere else.”
The freshman recorded four tackles in his debut, helping the Irish rout the Falcons, 59-33.
Hounshell soon faced his first major setback, however, as just three weeks after his debut, the maturing freshman tore his labrum in a win against Navy.
Demonstrating the resiliency that would become a defining characteristic of his career, the freshman played injured for the remainder of the season, contributing in a limited capacity in six of the final seven games for the Irish.
“You can either choose to quit or put your head down and work hard,” Hounshell said. “I worked too hard up to that point to let one injury define my career.”
Hounshell had surgery to repair the torn labrum during the offseason, but in a moment of tragic irony, he reinjured the repaired shoulder again against the Midshipmen to begin the 2012 season. This ended his sophomore campaign.
Bad fortune befell Hounshell yet again during 2013 spring drills, as he reinjured the shoulder once more.
He underwent shoulder and labrum reconstructive surgery following this third injury, and at this point in his career, Hounshell said he began receiving advice from doctors to not play football again.
“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life,” Hounshell said. “I had teammates asking me if I even wanted to play again, and I even began asking myself if I should play, but I just continued to work hard.”
Hounshell has not competed during the 2014 season for the Irish but said he is currently healthy.
“It’s hard to believe I’ve been through all these injuries, but we have such a great staff here that have helped me out along the way, and I just continued to work, and finally, I’m back,” he said.
Outside of football, the management consulting major said he plans on pursuing a career in business or entrepreneurship following his graduation in May but added he will miss the “little things” about student life at Notre Dame.
“I’ll miss the overall atmosphere of campus, just being able to walk along South Quad and see so many people you know throughout the day — that’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Hounshell said.
The senior lineman said it was at first difficult to find the balance between academics and football, but he has developed a sense of enjoyment in completing his daily schedule.
“Coming in to Notre Dame, you always hear academics is so difficult, and on top of that you’re going to be so busy with football, and for the most part that is true,” Hounshell said. “But you start to realize that you choose your classes and area of study, and football becomes something you enjoy with your brothers and something that you love.”
And Hounshell’s advice to incoming Notre Dame football players? It’s simple: don’t be lazy.
“It’s hard work — nobody’s going to lie to you and tell you it isn’t — but it’s definitely something that’s doable if you put your head down and work hard,” he said.