In control: Two-time captain Drue Tranquill is once again ready to protect his house against Michigan
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, November 9, 2018
Editor’s note: A version of the article appeared in the Aug. 31 edition of The Observer.
It’s a rivalry of old.
Saturday’s matchup is going to look much like the storied Notre Dame–Michigan games that have been etched into the history books: dark, under the lights and rainy.
When the Irish take the field against the Wolverines, it may mark a return to the good old days and recall memories of the Notre Dame student section bidding farewell to Michigan during a 31-0 shutout four years ago. But for graduate student linebacker Drue Tranquill, these four years have marked some of the most important and influential of his life.
Since he last played against Michigan in that famous shutout, Tranquill graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a stellar GPA in mechanical engineering. He tore his ACL. Twice. He got engaged to the love of his life: Jackie Gindt. He got married to the love of his life: Jackie Tranquill. He started his own charity, the 5th Quarter. Oh, and he has played a bit of college football and was named a team captain. Twice.
Now in his fifth year on the team, Tranquill was able to graduate from Notre Dame in December of his senior year — a semester early.
“I think life can become overwhelming, but I learned from a young age from my mom that with faith in Jesus, anything is possible,” Tranquill said of the accomplishment. “So, I just took that at a young age and kind of prioritized what was important to me in life, which was getting my degree and taking advantage of that opportunity to play here at Notre Dame and obviously my relationships with my friends and my wife. So, everything kind of external to that, I kind of put to the side for four years and just kind of put my head down. Anything’s possible.”
Despite having a variety of opportunities open to him after his graduation, Tranquill eventually made the decision to stay at Notre Dame for his final year of eligibility, a decision he announced at the Echoes, Notre Dame’s annual football awards ceremony.
“I think that after talking it over with my family, my wife, my coaches, it was going to be best for me to come back,” he said. “College football is my dream. It’s been a dream for me to play here, and to have another shot to win a national championship means everything to me.”
A fifth season under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium means Tranquill will have the chance to do what just two other players have done during head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure at the school. This year will mark Tranquill’s second as a captain, making him the third two-time captain under Kelly, along with former offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Zack Martin.
The responsibility of being a captain is not one Tranquill takes lightly, especially the second time around.
“It’s such an honor at a place like this. Notre Dame would go on without me and they will go on without me, so just to be able to put that ‘C’ on my chest this year and represent this team means everything to me,” Tranquill said of being selected as a captain. “And like I said, this University will go on without me and do great things, but for the time being, if I can make my mark and make this place just a little bit better, that’s what I’m trying to do and that’s what I’m striving to do.”
Tranquill is coming into the role this season with experience and is excited to use that experience to benefit his teammates.
“I know that my outlook and perspective on the role is a little bit different,” he said. “Having some experience at it this year, knowing what worked well and what didn’t work well, I definitely bring that to the table.”
While his role as a captain may not have changed between this season and last, for the second one in a row Tranquill will be tackling a completely new position — moving from rover to buck linebacker this season. Tranquill said the move to linebacker was part of the reason he stayed on for his fifth year, as he thinks he fits the position more naturally and it is where he is being projected at the next level.
“That’s where my instincts lie and where I think my traits show up best,” Tranquill said. “In my nose for the football, in finding the football, my physicality, my toughness, all the things that kind of make me who I am as a player.”
Moving to the buck linebacker position is just another example of the progress Tranquill has made in his time at Notre Dame since beginning with the team in 2014 after not being very highly recruited.
“I’ve come a long way,” he said. “I came from a high school where I did a little bit of everything, so to come to Notre Dame and focus in on one position and really learn ins and outs, I think just my knowledge of the game has grown so much and my knowledge of defense and the structure of defense and how it works and how 11 guys play as one has really grown here while at Notre Dame.”
As a graduate student, Tranquill has the rare advantage among the members of the Irish squad of having played against Michigan before — he was present when Notre Dame sent the Wolverines back to Ann Arbor with their tails between their legs in 2014. Tranquill said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to do so once again.
“It’s awesome. Last time we played them I was a true freshman and we won 31-0,” Tranquill said with a grin. “It would be awesome to be able to relive that again this year. But really looking forward to a historic rivalry and to be a part of that twice here at Notre Dame would mean a lot.”
He has also taken on the responsibility of making sure the underclassmen understand the significance of the Michigan game.
“I think rivalries become and mean more to you as your years go on. Whatever place you choose to go to, you kind of take part in that tradition year-in and year-out, and a lot of these guys haven’t played Michigan yet and all they have is the years passed and the stories,” he said. “To verbalize to my guys what that meant when we beat them last [time] and what this meant in years past to play them means a lot and guys are excited and know they’re a great football team and they’re going to bring the best out of us and we’re sure going to bring the best out of them.”
But when the two teams bring their best to the turf at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night, Tranquill cannot guarantee the same 31-0 outcome as four years ago. What he can control, however, is his effort. Something the 6-foot-2 linebacker takes solace in is knowing that he is giving his all in every single thing he does, both on and off the field. It’s what keeps him hungry and what allows Tranquill to stay in control of each and every aspect of his life.
“We always say around here, ‘effort is the price of admission.’ You can always control your effort, it doesn’t matter how talented you are,” Tranquill said. “I wasn’t a top recruit coming out of high school. I’ve been [overlooked] by plenty of people. I’ve had two ACL injuries, but effort is something that you can control day in and day out and it’s something my coaches have really appreciated and taught me. Older guys like Matthias Farley, Joe Schmidt have taught me that as a younger player here. And that’s something I try to model here on a day-to-day basis. If I’m the captain of the football team and I’m not being consistent in that on a day-to-day basis, how can I possibly demand that from them? I’m ready to go.”