Chase Hounshell’s athleticism earns him fifth year
Benjamin Padanilam | Thursday, November 12, 2015
Not many players are given the opportunity to play on both sides of the field during their careers, but graduate student tight end Chase Hounshell was one of the players athletic and intelligent enough to do it.
Coming out of Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, Ohio, Hounshell was a standout lineman on both sides of the football. When he had the opportunity to decide where he wanted to continue his career, he originally chose to play for Urban Meyer at Florida. However, after Meyer “retired,” he ultimately chose to come to Notre Dame as a defensive lineman.
“I ended up coming here for defensive end, which is what I wanted to play,” Hounshell said. “I felt like that was kind of my body type.”
As the Associated Press’s co-Defensive Player of the Year in Ohio in 2010, Hounshell was one of many talented defensive lineman in the 2011 recruiting class for the Irish. Many people questioned why he decided to join a class that included the likes of Stephon Tuitt, Ishaq Williams and Aaron Lynch, but Hounshell said he had other reasons that made Notre Dame the obvious choice for him.
“Number one [was] definitely the people,” Hounshell said. “I had visited Notre Dame probably four or five times, and every single time, you just meet new people, new teammates, new coaches [and] the parents of the current teammates. There’s just something about Notre Dame that attracts great people.
“Obviously I was looking at education, too. I knew I wanted to go into business, and Notre Dame has the No. 1 business school in the nation, so it was just kind of an easy choice.”
While he never served as a starter for the team during his freshman season, Hounshell continued to work hard and found his way into seven games for the Irish as a reserve, including a four-tackle game in a win over Air Force.
Then in the first game of his sophomore season, he suffered a shoulder injury that cost him the remainder of the season. His junior year was also lost to injury, and Hounshell said it was a difficult time for him.
“Yeah, that was definitely hard,” Hounshell said. “My family helped me out a bunch. Just talking to my family helped a lot. My twin sister played college basketball, and she got hurt, so I was talking to her about her injuries. My brother played football in college, and he got hurt, so I talked to him [as well].
“Every single day, you go out to practice, and you can’t practice, but you rehab. [Head football athletic trainer] Rob Hunt was phenomenal helping me rehab every single day.”
However, he was able to make the comeback his senior season and found his way into three games. His comeback culminated with an opportunity for extended playing time against USC, a game in which he recorded two tackles for the Irish.
With an extra year of eligibility available to him, Hounshell decided he wanted to make one last push to help the team in any way possible. After sitting down with Irish head coach Brian Kelly, he decided to return to the team, but this time as a block-first tight end. It was a transition that Hounshell was more than willing to make, but one that wasn’t easy either.
“You definitely have to open up your eyes,” Hounshell said. “There’s just a lot of technique and stuff you’re so used to as a defensive lineman, so every time you come off the ball, you’re just locking someone up and ripping out, but now it’s the complete opposite. So it’s just been like little baby steps, and I’ve been progressing and progressing.”
With a deep tight end group the Irish had this season, Hounshell wasn’t expected to see much playing time this year. But that hasn’t bothered him, as he said he has no regrets as a member of the program.
“Coach VanGorder, used to say, ‘Have no regrets. Everything that’s happened has happened for a reason, and be happy that it happened, learn from it, and move on,’” Hounshell said. “I really have no regrets about my time at Notre Dame, and I think it’s worked out for the best.”
As the Irish continue to improve week after week and assert themselves as playoff contenders, Hounshell said the chemistry on this team is similar to what he experienced with the 2012 team that made the BCS Championship Game, which was one of his favorite memories as a member of the program.
“In 2012, when we had an undefeated season, there was just something different about that team,” Hounshell said. “You could always tell that that team just meshed real well together. Everyone was just best friends, and that was just something you looked back in hindsight and are like ‘Wow, what a great team and great people,’ and I feel that same chemistry in the locker room this year.”