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Hunter Bivin reflects on team traditions after staying for fifth year

| Friday, November 17, 2017

It took a bit of courage for southern Kentucky native Hunter Bivin to bid farewell to his hometown and pursue life under the Dome. However, playing for Notre Dame was the graduate student offensive lineman’s lifelong dream and he has not looked back.

“I’ve always loved Notre Dame football from the time I was a little kid,” Bivin said. “They’re the team I have always rooted for since I can remember. Notre Dame is always where I wanted to go.”

Bivin’s journey to that of a contributing offensive lineman began similarly to that of many: as a redshirt freshman. Bivin said his redshirt season was integral to his ability to acclimate and adjust to being a top-notch student and football player at Note Dame.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer
Irish senior offensive lineman Hunter Bivin moves to make a block during the Blue-Gold Game on April 22 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“That was nice to have that first year as a redshirt to get my feet wet in the college atmosphere. I could get used to everything and just be a normal student for a little bit,” he said. “Now, halfway through my fifth year, I remember the times during my redshirt-freshman year that we didn’t travel to away games and we would hang back on campus. It was cool to make friends with kids in the dorms. That year also allowed me to get bigger and stronger. I could get used to the game and acclimate to the speed of the game. I definitely wasn’t the biggest kid on the field anymore. Everybody was better and faster and motivated.”

In addition to easing the transition from high school to, Bivin’s redshirt year also made him eligible for a fifth year of playing time. The chance to be on the Irish roster one last time was an opportunity Bivin refused to pass up.

“To be able to play college football anywhere is a blessing, and it’s a great opportunity that not many people get to do and can experience,” Bivin said. “I consider myself lucky to have this extra fifth year. There are so many people who would give their left arm to play college football. It’s had its ups and downs. I’ve had tough times. Times that weren’t easy and times that would be easier if I had just called it quits. But, my brother always told me that when something is tough or when you are doubting yourself, if playing college football is the hardest part of your day, you are living a pretty good life. It has been a blessing.

“I love the guys here. I love the people at Notre Dame. I love Notre Dame. This has become my home; I don’t want to be anywhere else. It has been really special for me to come back and live my dream for another year.”

Bivin reflected fondly on his time as a student, saying that the traditions and spirit throughout campus make playing for Notre Dame an unequivocal experience. Elaborating on this, Bivin recalled his favorite game-day tradition: the player walk to the stadium.

“ … I think my favorite tradition is the walk to the stadium from the Gug,” Bivin said. “It is really my favorite thing that we do, as far as game-day traditions. I go through and there are all the college kids and adults, but I always try to make it a point and see the little kids that are standing there with stars in their eyes and seeing us as like, these great, superstars. They don’t ever picture themselves as being college players and I was that way. It seems like yesterday that I was a little kid, just looking up to these guys thinking: ‘Wow, that’d be so cool.’

“[Graduate student tight end] Durham [Smythe] and [graduate student offensive lineman] Mike [McGlinchey] always make fun me while we walk over as the kids go for the fives, but I rub them on their heads. I’m just hoping that maybe one day, I can inspire a little kid to chase his dream like I did. To see a little Notre Dame fan looking up to us like we’re superstars and hoping that they, too, will someday be a player themselves is really special to me.”

Amidst the Saturday chaos, Bivin looks forward to partaking in the age-old ritual — the slapping of the “Play like a Champion Today” sign — as a reminder to give his all before taking the field each home game.

“‘Play like a Champion’ clicks in my head as ‘mental toughness,’” Bivin said. “Coach Hiestand talks about it all the time. It’s being your best on-command, no matter what. That’s the definition of mental toughness. When the lights are on and it’s time to go, you have got to turn it on. You cannot be lethargic and not bring intensity. You need to have energy on the field and be your best at that moment, be your best on-command.

“It’s been so engrained into the tradition and history of Notre Dame. It’s so cool to hit the same sign that so many great players did. Every time I go down the tunnel and run out in front of 80,000 people, I get goosebumps. Every single time. It’s a really awesome part of the tradition here, unlike anywhere else. I mean nobody else really has anything like that.”

The traditions of Notre Dame made South Bend feel like home to Bivin. Consequently, he will be interning with former Notre Dame quarterback and director of player development Ron Powlus in the Department of Player Development during the spring 2018 semester.

“It’s going to be fun working for Ron; he’s a great guy,” said Bivin. “I’ve been through enough adversity through my many years here and I think I can help people through similar situations. I have the experience from the tough obstacles that I’ve faced and overcame through the years.”

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