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Regan’s versatility aids Irish, personal growth

| Friday, November 9, 2018

Glancing through the Notre Dame walk-on hall of fame, several stories stand out. Rudy’s memorialized tackle, Joe Schmidt’s rise in the ranks to be named captain and current senior receiver Chris Finke, whose 32 total catches on the season nearly tripled his career-total in high school. However, only senior linebacker Robert Regan can claim to have earned a game ball without taking a snap all season.

For Regan, a native of Darien, Illinois, his path to Notre Dame was a story of right place, right time.

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish senior linebacker Robert Regan works to move around his special teams defender during Notre Dame’s 24-16 win over Ball State on Sept. 8.

Originally looking to play in the Ivy League, Regan joined a high school teammate, who was being recruited by the Irish at the time, on a tour. Then-defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder suggested that Regan consider sending his tape in and walking on at Notre Dame.

Regan said that was the first time the thought of joining the Irish really crossed his mind.

“After that they offered me a preferred walk on spot, and that just wasn’t something I could really pass up because that was right at the time when my Ivey stuff fell apart, and it just seemed like a perfect fit for me because it’s like an hour and a half, two hours from home. Obviously good school, good football, spiritually too. It just made the most sense,” Regan said.

Turns out he made the right choice.

Having played quarterback in high school, Regan’s experience in the read-option offense proved crucial midway through his freshman year against perennial opponent, Navy. He served as scout team quarterback, running the Midshipmen’s triple-option scheme and training the Irish defense for what to expect.

Regan said he never would have imagined that his experience with the read-option offense would be what earned him his stake in Irish football lore.

Reeling from a two-point loss on the road against Clemson, Notre Dame delivered an impressive 41-24 performance over Navy. Despite not making an appearance in the game, Regan earned the game ball for his efforts throughout the week to prepare the team.

“Rough week of practice. [Late outside linebackers coach Bob] Elliott was really working with me a lot … Getting the guys that were in the office to trust me and trust him that I had a lot of experience with it,” Regan said. “Being a freshman it was new for me to be in that position. I had asked if we could take off our red jerseys like the quarterbacks could so that we could give a better look and that was probably a mistake looking back because I got beat up pretty bad.”

Despite the beating he took throughout the week, getting the job done was Regan’s primary focus.

“Getting the game ball was just the icing on the cake,” he said. “I never in a million years would have expected that and for coach Kelly and the coaching staff to think about all the guys … it was something really special, something I’ll never forget.”

Regan eventually worked his way off the sideline, appearing in 16 games over the past two seasons, primarily with special teams.

“Special teams is obviously a huge component,” he said. “That can never be overlooked, it can change the game. My role on it — I think I’ve been able to contribute over the past two years. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I haven’t been as productive this year as I was past but still working to get those tackles.”

One area that Regan has noted his game grow is during offensive special teams. Those improvements were on display earlier this season against Wake Forest, as Regan blocked one of the last line of defenders while Finke returned a punt 52 yards before being downed at the four-yard line.

Regan said that block felt pretty good to make.

With three games standing between the Irish and a potential playoff berth, this senior class has witnessed it all, having tasted the possibility of a national championship twice and suffered a 4-8 season in 2016. For Regan, these experiences have only molded him into the player and leader he is today.

“It obviously feels special and we’ve got a lot going for ourselves, but we can never get ahead of ourselves considering how last year at Miami was,” Regan said. “Even Clemson my freshman year. We like where we’re at and it’s exciting just to have the opportunity to play in the playoff and hopefully play for the national championship. We’re on the right track and that’s exciting.”

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