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Avery Sebastian takes long road to South Bend

| Friday, November 18, 2016

It’s been a long, winding road through college football for sixth-year graduate student safety Avery Sebastian.

He started his career at California, earning accolades on special teams as a sophomore before suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of his junior season.

Sebastian came back strong and recorded 21 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in seven games he played his senior year at Cal. With an added year of eligibility due to the injury, Sebastian decided to transfer and play his fifth year at Notre Dame.

Sebastian said getting to play alongside an old high school friend of his influenced his decision to transfer.

Irish sixth-year graduate student Avery Sebastian, on the ground, helps tackle a Duke player during Notre Dame’s loss Sept. 24.Rosie LoVoi | The Observer
Irish sixth-year graduate student Avery Sebastian, on the ground,
helps tackle a Duke player during Notre Dame’s loss Sept. 24.

“I felt like there were a lot of new opportunities for me here,” Sebastian said. “Definitely being here and being able to play with one of my high school teammates, [senior defensive lineman] Isaac Rochell. I was able to come into the new graduate program and the business management programs, which was huge to get my master’s degree while playing my one last year. It ended up being two years but that’s fine.

“It’s also just a school I grew up watching. They are committed to excellence here and it’s one of the greatest schools you could ever go to, so I was just extremely blessed to have this opportunity.”

Sebastian, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound safety from McDonough, Georgia, said he chose his football position after playing another physical sport one not often associated with his humid home state.

“I grew up playing hockey, and in hockey, you have to be really physical,” Sebastian said. “I was a defenseman and a forward, so when I translated over to football I wanted to be one of those guys that could defend people and go out and if I needed to make a physical play I could do that. I feel like safety was the best position for me. If you culminate all of those abilities and put it one, safety is that position.”

In 2015, Sebastian was supposed to be a starter for the Notre Dame defense. Instead, Sebastian suffered the all-too-familiar experience of a season-ending injury in the season opener against Texas.

“That was extremely difficult,” Sebastian said. “When I first got here, I was expected to play a major role for the team and last year was a good year for Notre Dame. I wish I could have been able to contribute but once I got injured, I was in the film room and the coaching rooms, coaching the guys and making sure I was still a part of the team and doing my duties.”

Despite uncertainty after he got injured, Sebastian was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. He has recorded 16 total tackles (13 of them solo) and one pass deflection in nine games this season.

Sebastian said the help and support from his teammates, friends and family, including the memory of an old teammate, helped him get through his recovery.

“Playing this year has been great, and one of the things that has helped me is a lot of the people I have played with aren’t playing anymore or they don’t have the opportunity to do this big thing,” Sebastian said. “Also, my mom and my brother have helped me, of course.

“One of my really close friends passed away my junior year at Cal, Ted Agu, while working out. He passed away right in front of us. We’re just still playing for him. That’s why I always post the number 35.”

Sebastian graduated from California with a degree in sociology, and said trying to juggle both his football and academic commitments can be a struggle sometimes as he pursues his master’s.

“It is extremely hard,” Sebastian said. “You have to really have an incredible plan because you have to be committed to excellence in your academics and athletics. At Notre Dame, it’s really unique because when you’re on the football team and on the practice field every day you have to excel because the people you’re going against are the best people in the country as well. You have to be on you’re a game every practice, which is really strenuous. You have to do the extra things outside of practice just for practicing for games.

“Then when you are in the classroom, you’re with some of the smartest people in the world, and you can’t get left behind. The moment you get left behind is the moment you’ll be kicked out of the program or you won’t be at Notre Dame anymore. So it’s extremely hard and has to do a lot with time management.”

After his six years as a college football player are up after this season, Sebastian said what he’ll miss most is being around the coaches and teammates that made the experience so memorable.

“I would say just being in the locker room day in and day out,” Sebastian said. “I would say everything from this year, even though it’s a tough year, we’ve had a lot of good games that have come down to the last second. We’re playing in Texas in that unbelievable atmosphere and playing here at home games. Beating Miami on last second plays.

“Even just being around these guys, that’s what I’m going to miss once I leave football, so I’m just trying to cherish every second.”

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