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Irish name five captains for upcoming season

| Friday, August 28, 2015

FiveFootballPlayers_Graphic_WebJanice Chung | The Observer

For only the third time in team history, five Irish players will make the pregame walk to midfield for the captains meeting.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly named senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day, junior linebacker Jaylon Smith and three graduate students, linebacker Joe Schmidt, cornerback Matthias Farley and offensive lineman Nick Martin, as the team’s 2015 captains Thursday.

The last time the Irish had five captains was 2007. But if Kelly had his way, there would have been even more.

“We probably could have named 10. Seriously,” Kelly said. “I really had a hard time. We went back through the media guides to check what the most captains were, because I had it whittled down to seven, and I couldn’t make the case for seven.”

Both Day and Martin served as captains last season, while Schmidt was voted most valuable player of the 2014 squad by his teammates. Kelly reflected on all five and why he’s excited about each leading the team this year.

“Nick Martin last year was named a captain and had to fight through a very difficult injury from the year before, and it was very difficult for him just to get healthy,” Kelly said. “And you can see this year being fully healthy, how he’s been able to lead not only the offensive line but the entire offense. It’s great to watch him lead and be such an integral part of what we’re doing.”

Martin joins his brother Zack Martin as a two-time Notre Dame captain. Still, even after a second year, Martin said the honor is humbling.

“It gives you a sense of pride,” Martin said. When you have a team like this it’s easy. Everyone cares about the person next to them more than themselves.”

For Day, also a captain last year, an extra year of knowing his role on the team will be integral, Kelly said.

“Sheldon Day as an underclassman, I don’t know if he truly knew how to lead as an underclassman,” Kelly said. “He was afraid at times to step on the seniors’ toes and was hesitant at times to speak up. That’s not the case this year. He truly has control of his room, the defensive line room. What’s impressed me the most about him is how he’s practiced every single day, with energy and a desire to want to get better.”

Day agrees that he has been much more vocal this year.

“If I say something, they definitely listen,” Day said. “They know where I’m coming from.

“[But] it’s kind of amazing to see how each person can step up when we need them to.”

While he was not a captain last year, Schmidt was a vocal leader on the defense en route to his team MVP honor.

“Joe Schmidt speaks for himself in that, boy, what a representative for our program in the community, in the classroom, class, distinction, and then on the field just a great communicator, a galvanizer,” Kelly said.

Although Schmidt said nothing will change regarding how he interacts with the team, he still recognized the gravity of the captaincy.

“It’s the most humbling, greatest honor that has ever been bestowed upon me,” Schmidt said. “Just to have the guys on this team, the guys I spend all of my time with — they vote on something like that — it’s pretty incredible. I’m so humbled. I love this team, I love this University. It’s such an incredible feeling.”

Junior linebacker Jaylon Smith, left, and graduate student linebacker Joe Schmidt celebrate during a 14-10 win over USC on Oct. 19, 2013.Wei Lin | The Observer
Junior linebacker Jaylon Smith, left, and graduate student linebacker Joe Schmidt celebrate during a 14-10 win over USC on Oct. 19, 2013.

Although Schmidt wasn’t a surprise to most, Farley, who has fought through adversity in his career, might have been. However, Kelly praised the way the graduate student interacts with his teammates.

“Matthias Farley brings together all segments of our football team,” Kelly said. “Probably has as many good relationships with our true freshmen as any upperclassman. That kind of personality, he really gets along with so many players on our team.”

Farley, for his part, was blindsided by the news.

“It’s the greatest honor of my life,” Farley said. “I’ve never in my wildest dreams would have thought, after my freshman year going through all the ups and downs, that this would be where I’m at. I love this place, I love this team, and to have the honor to represent them is a huge honor and a huge blessing for me.

“To be able to represent everybody: the coaches, the staff, the other students, people across the country. It’s a huge honor.”

The last captain, Smith, is arguably Notre Dame’s most dominant player — and Kelly didn’t shy away from those accolades.

“Jaylon [Smith] is such a force on the field,” Kelly said. “He’s so impactful that you can’t help but notice him every single down that he’s out there. He’s our best player on defense. It’s not even close — he’s that good of a player.”

Smith said he was honored to be named a captain.

“It means everything,” Smith said. “I’ve always been a leader, but to have that really highlighted by the team and the coaches voting me, in that name, in that place; getting a chance to wear that ‘C’ is special.

“Wearing that ‘C’ on my chest is something I’ll get to cherish the rest of my life.”

Notre Dame’s captains will take to midfield next Saturday against Texas under the lights, prior to the teams’ kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

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About Brian Plamondon

Brian is a senior History major. He is a Maryland native that has been to 16 different countries including Italy, where he studied abroad. He loves all things hockey, especially the Washington Capitals. He's just doing this so he won't get fined.

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