Inspired by family, Mustipher enjoys the ride
Kevin Perez | Friday, November 9, 2018
On August 21, No. 12 Notre Dame was 11 days out from its highly anticipated matchup versus No. 14 Michigan to open the 2018 season. As the team prepared on campus, Sam Mustipher received news that his grandmother Linda Heatherman had passed away at the age of 70 after a battle with liver cancer. Mustipher says that while the situation was tough, he did not lose focus as the season began.
“Obviously, I have great teammates and they were there for me, but the most important thing for me was that I had been able to spend time with my family and celebrate the life that she had and all the people that she impacted, which I’m grateful I got the opportunity to do. That was really important to me,” he said.
With his grandfather and other family in the stands, and his grandmother watching from above, Mustipher helped the Irish secure the win that opening night as Notre Dame beat Michigan 24-17. The team has not looked back and has since won eight more games to continue its undefeated season.
Hailing from Owings Mills, Maryland, where he played for the Good Counsel Falcons Football team. Mustipher, captain and starting center for the Irish, comes from a football family. His brother PJ Mustipher is a true freshman at Penn State, having appeared in eight games already for the Nittany Lions. His father Sam played football for West Virginia. Mustipher has loved football all his life, telling his dad he was going to be out there on the field when they attended a Miami Dolphins game when Sam was just 4 years old. His dream might yet come true this spring, but for now, Mustipher is focused on helping the Irish achieve a national championship.
Now, in his final season as a graduate student — he graduated this past spring with a degree in computer science — Mustipher has started the last 34 games the Irish have played, and has been instrumental to Notre Dame’s fantastic season, placing him on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the best center in college football. Ranked third in the nation with a 9-0 record, the Irish are enjoying a successful season, and Mustipher is not surprised.
“With the way we prepare in the offseason, we’re hoping for a good year and I believe in what Coach Kelly tells us all the time which is focus on the positives, trust the traits, and I think we did that,” Mustipher said. “All our successes up to this point have followed directly from the fact that we followed the process and trusted the process and I think it shows.”
While the Irish have been incredibly successful this season, Mustipher said he was most proud of Notre Dame’s effort on the road against Virginia Tech. Looking ahead, Mustipher is looking forward to Senior Day and playing Florida State this Saturday in his final game at Notre Dame Stadium.
“They’re a talented defense, a talented bunch, and it’s going to be a great opportunity for us to see it all come together and hopefully send off all of these seniors out here with a victory,” he said.
While Mustipher comes from a football family, he wasn’t on the Fighting Irish. But after an illustrious career in South Bend, Mustipher has come to also see Notre Dame as family.
“I didn’t grow up a Notre Dame fan or anything like that, but obviously when you come into Notre Dame as a freshman, at some point you realize it’s going to come to an end. Now that it’s coming to an end, I’m just trying to embrace every second of it.”
That goes for all aspects of Notre Dame too, not just football. Mustipher says he’s most enjoyed the community at Notre Dame.
“I’ve made a lot of friends both on and off the football team. Everybody at Notre Dame looks out for each other, and I know people say it’s the same everywhere else and stuff like that, but I truly do believe Notre Dame is a different place and that the relationships I’ve built with people here will transcend the little amount of time that we have at Notre Dame,” Mustipher said.
Ultimately, Mustipher is simply grateful for everyone and their support.
“Thank you to all the fans and the supporters that I’ve had throughout my time here. It really means the world to us, and me specifically.”