Kelly names McGlinchey, Hunter Jr., Rochell and Onwualu as captains for 2016
Alex Carson | Thursday, August 25, 2016
A quartet of seniors will lead Notre Dame in 2016 as captains, Irish head coach Brian Kelly announced Wednesday at a press conference.
Receiver Torii Hunter Jr., offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, linebacker James Onwualu and defensive lineman Isaac Rochell will each wear the “C” patch for the first time Sept. 4 when the Irish open their season at Texas.
“We’ve got four great captains that will lead our 2016 football team,” Kelly said in the presser. “ … They’ve got great experience and they’re great young men, too.”
In terms of starts, Hunter is the least experienced of Notre Dame’s four captains. He hasn’t even made the most starts of the quartet at his own position — as Kelly pointed out, Onwualu’s four starts at receiver in 2013 make him the most-started returner at the position.
But while he hasn’t seen the field as much as the others, Kelly said Hunter has played “big roles” at Notre Dame.
Hunter, who said he tries to keep things fun, called it an honor to be one of Notre Dame’s four captains — even if he wasn’t expecting to be bestowed with it.
“I always knew that I had leadership qualities, I knew that I possessed those qualities, but to just be named a captain is just an honor and a blessing,” Hunter said. “ … It’s definitely gonna be a fun ride going forward, something that I didn’t expect. I’m looking forward to it.”
McGlinchey is the offensive line’s most-veteran presence: He started all 13 games last season, and Irish head coach Brian Kelly praised the way McGlinchey uses his voice in the locker room.
“He’s a guy that’s not afraid to speak up, speak his mind,” Kelly said.
McGlinchey was emotional when he heard the news Sunday — he said he was “fighting back tears” — but said he’s looking forward to leading the Irish into the new season.
“I’m really appreciative of Coach Kelly, the administration and the rest of our staff for the opportunity to become a captain here at Notre Dame,” McGlinchey said. “It’s a pretty special club that I’m in now; it’s a pretty big responsibility, as well.
“I’m really excited about it. Obviously, I was pretty emotional when Coach gave me the news and I’m just excited about the season and moving forward as one of the leaders of this team.”
Onwualu, who was named the starter Wednesday at the strong-side linebacker spot, said he never would have envisioned being in this role a few years ago.
“It’s something that you can’t really explain,” Onwualu said. “If you would’ve asked me five years ago I wouldn’t have even said that I’d be playing football at a school and a university as great as this one. For me to be a captain of this team and for me to be a captain of such a great team, it’s an honor you can’t really explain.”
When asked about what he brought to the table, Onwualu alluded to his freshman season spent as a receiver.
“I think that I’ve just come every day with a purpose of giving my best to the team,” Onwualu said. “And I’ve been in a lot of different slots throughout this team, so just really doing anything that I can to help the team is one thing.”
Rochell, who enters his third consecutive year as a starter on the defensive line, echoed the sentiments of his fellow captains.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure, but just expectation and responsibility of being in the role,” Rochell said. “And it’s something I’m excited about.”
He also offered high praise for the rest of the leadership team.
“I can’t think of a greater group to be with,” Rochell said. “Thinking back to just coming to Notre Dame, we would’ve never looked at each other and guessed that we’d be in this position. It’s just a group of guys that has worked extremely hard and you think — Mike was a skinny, long-legged guy when he came in, Torii couldn’t even play because he had a broken femur, James was a three-star recruit, and they’ve worked extremely hard.
“I’m proud to be part of this group.”