Brothers in Arms: Joe Schmidt and Matthias Farley
Greg Hadley | Friday, November 20, 2015
They’re young, relatively speaking.
Joe Schmidt and Matthias Farley are both 23-year-old graduate students. They hold degrees from Notre Dame: Farley in film, television and theatre, Schmidt in management-entrepreneurship. Farley owns a dog, Harper. Schmidt co-hosts a radio show. They have played a combined 90 games for Notre Dame.
But when they’re waiting around to have their picture taken and the marching band streams into Loftus Sports Center to practice, the two begin to clown around. Farley gets ahold of a trumpet and begins to cradle it like an infant. Schmidt trades a football for one and asks how he should hold the instrument, laughing at the role reversal.
The pair may be grizzled veterans on the field, but off it, they’re still far from old age.
A rocky start
Scroll through either Farley’s or Schmidt’s social media profiles, and the other one inevitably pops up. There’s Schmidt posting a picture to Instagram of him and Farley walking through the tunnel of Notre Dame Stadium after a Senior Day win. There’s Farley tweeting a video of him and Schmidt singing the Alma Mater together.
But as close as the two are now, their relationship as teammates and friends started off poorly.
“We actually didn’t like each other when we first got here, the first summer,” Farley said. “We butted heads that freshman summer.
“I thought he was annoying. He probably thought I was annoying. We’re both real talkative, so it was like, ‘All right man, let’s fight,’” Farley joked.
That animosity disappeared once they started to play together that freshman season, but while their personal differences were gone, they were still struggling to get any playing time. For the entirety of the 2011 season, both players toiled away on the scout team.
Schmidt was still a walk-on at that point, and Farley was training as a receiver behind the likes of Michael Floyd and T.J. Jones. They both entered college as three-star recruits, far behind celebrated prospects such as Ishaq Williams, Stephon Tuitt and DaVaris Daniels. Neither seemed poised to make much of an impact.
“When I got [to Notre Dame], it was funny because I was on the very, very bottom of the totem pole,” Schmidt told The Observer on Nov. 11.
For 2012, Farley made the switch to safety, while Schmidt started to see the field on special teams. Then, when starting safety Jamoris Slaughter went down with an Achilles injury three weeks into the season, Farley leapt into a starting role.
He made the most of his opportunity, collecting 49 tackles and an interception in 11 starts. Farley also had the chance to learn and be a part of the nation’s top scoring defense, under the tutelage of Manti Te’o, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Dan Fox.
And while the 2015 Irish rank 31st in the NCAA in scoring defense, Farley said the unit compares favorably to the one he played with all the way to the BCS National Championship Game.
“There are a lot of similarities, I think,” Farley said. “It’s a very close group; I think that’s a parallel between the two years. But I think this year, I think there are a lot more guys who have stepped up, as far as leadership goes. In 2012, we had incredible leadership, but now in 2015, we have a lot more guys leading in the same capacity.”
In 2013, Farley once again played 13 games, though his number of starts dropped to eight as he battled injury. In 2014, he switched to the nickleback role and grabbed four starts. During that time, he also became known as a leader of the special teams, as he continued to play on punt and kickoff coverage.
“He’s been a starter. He’s been not a starter. He’s been the special teams captain,” Schmidt said of Farley on Sept. 23. “He’s been just about everything in his time here, and so I just think it’s so funny that it’s even a question if he’s ready or if he’s going to perform because he’s a baller. He’s been a baller. He’s always going to be a baller.”
For Schmidt, the leap into the lineup didn’t come until his senior season. Through his sophomore and junior years, he did not start a single game or record a sack or an interception. He had 21 tackles combined.
Then came 2014. As the starting middle linebacker, Schmidt collected 65 tackles, grabbed two interceptions and forced two fumbles in eight starts, before an ankle injury ended his breakout season. At year’s end, he was voted Notre Dame’s Most Valuable Player.
This season, Schmidt has started every game and is third on the team in tackles and tied for third in sacks. But he doesn’t grade his performances solely on the stat sheet.
“When I’m looking at the film, I don’t look at how many tackles I had to base it on whether I had a good game or not because sometimes there are games where you might not have an opportunity to … make a whole lot of tackles, but you play a really good football game,” Schmidt said. “ … Sometimes the statistics of tackles and [tackles for loss] don’t always exactly mean that you had a great game.”
Farley, for his part, has only started two games this season behind the safety duo of senior Elijah Shumate and junior Max Redfield. But he has been able to have an impact on the field all the same, including an interception, a pass breakup and a forced fumble. What makes him stand out to head coach Brian Kelly, though, is something different.
“We have our stretch lines, right,” Kelly said Sept. 22. “ … [After] they are done with their stretch, he has a handshake for each one of the guys in that line. He just has a relationship with everybody that makes him beloved by all of his players.”
As elder statesmen of the defense, Farley and Schmidt are as much as five years older than some of their teammates. That age gap doesn’t change their dynamic with the younger players too much, but every once in a while, they’ll be reminded of it, Farley said.
“[The freshmen] do stuff or say stuff, and I’m like, ‘Man, I couldn’t imagine doing that or saying that,’” Farley said. “That’s exactly where I was as a freshman, so it really does come full circle. I think being one of the older guys, you gotta accept that you’re one of the older guys and be a little bit more mature at times.
“I mean, the freshman class was going into eighth grade my freshman year [of college].”
Off the field
As their collegiate careers come to a close, Farley and Schmidt have become close away from football as well. They’ll go to the store together on Mondays, Farley says. They bowl, go to movies and mini golf together. And after each home game, they sing the Alma Mater together. Their friendship even extends to their families.
“His family is my family and vice versa,” Farley said. “His mom’s been incredible coming out here, and we’ll go to dinners and stuff, and we’re always hanging out. He’s a really good friend on and off the field.”
Back at Loftus, Schmidt and Farley, both outgoing and friendly, have already struck up conversations with band members and are chatting pleasantly. As they turn to go take care of business, get their picture taken and head off to the training table, Schmidt turns around and yells to no one in particular.
“Matthias just got asked to the band dance, and I didn’t!”