Bushland learns new position to earn place
Joe Everett | Friday, November 9, 2018
Matt Bushland was happy with his goal of playing both baseball and football in college — he would just have to do so at a Division III school. The senior from Dallas was able to apply to schools such as University of Chicago thanks to his smarts, but it ultimately shook out that Notre Dame, despite it presenting a much more difficult challenge from the athletics perspective, was ultimately the best choice for Bushland.
“Notre Dame was actually the only school I got a significant amount of financial aid from, so when it came down to it, it was actually my cheapest option,” Bushland said. “I actually applied there as a backup school in case I got hurt my senior year. Growing up in a Catholic family and with the right price for my family, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
Bushland still wanted to play sports, but realized he wasn’t going to make the team playing the position he did in high school: wide receiver. To have a shot at walking on to the team, he would have to adapt, work hard and be creative in the process.
“When I went, I told myself that I had to try out for [two] varsity sports: football and baseball. I wasn’t ready to give up my athletic career,” Bushland said. “I figured my best chance to walk-on was to teach myself how to long-snap. I would go to the [Rockne Memorial] every morning from 6 to 8 and I would work out for an hour and just long-snap into the pads under the basketball hoop for an hour. And boy did I suck at first … but long-snapping is one of those things where just about anybody can do it, as long as you put the right amount of time into it. I got pretty good, but then in the spring of my freshman year, I still got cut in the tryouts, so that was a little disappointing.”
After being cut that first spring, Bushland would turn his sights back to baseball the following summer. However, after eventually being cut from the Texas league team he had been playing with before the fall season, Bushland switched his attention back from the diamond to the gridiron, and lo and behold he successfully walked-on at Notre Dame the spring of his sophomore year.
Currently the backup snapper for the Irish, Bushland commented on the specialist group and the bond he shares with those guys.
“It’s definitely a close-knit group. We spend a lot of time together … At the end of the day it’s one of those things where we’re all there to help each other get better at our jobs on the team, and to work our best and hardest,” he said. “At the same time, we still try to have a lot of fun while we’re doing it. A lot of that stems from [senior punter Tyler] Newsome’s leadership.
“Not only on the football field, but also on the pool table are we competing.”
Bushland will graduate from the University this December, and looking back on his time with the team, he noted that the things he will cherish the most are the friendships he’s formed, the memories he’s made, and the traits he’s developed.
“The most important thing has to be the relationships,” Bushland said. “I’ve made some really good friends on the team — not just in the specialist unit — and there’s 10-20 relationships where I’ll be friends with those guys for life. I think that’s the most important thing.
“Also, the memories. Even as a walk-on you get to have some pretty cool experiences. I don’t think you could put a price tag or value on any of that. I guess the last thing would be the mindset of working hard and doing your best. If you give it everything you’ve got, you can accomplish some pretty cool things.”