Jack Casey’s path to captaincy
Ellen Geyer | Friday, September 13, 2019
Jack Casey the person really isn’t all that different from Jack Casey the soccer player. In fact, in many ways, who the senior midfielder is on the field is indicative of who he is off. And vice versa.
In his first three years at Notre Dame, Casey had a knack for playing the perfect assist — for the game-winning goal against Boston College in 2018. For the game-winning goal against No. 2 Syracuse in 2016. For the game-winning goal against Duke again in 2016.
Propelling his teammates to excellence time and time again.
So he does off the field too — and having been named one of three captains for the 2019 season, he now has the nominal reinforcement.
Having grown from a role player as an underclassman to an integral part of the Irish operation as an upperclassman, Casey thinks his time on the bench is precisely what makes him the leader that he is.
“It’s definitely difficult your freshman year,” Casey said. “We recruit some of the best players in the country, and a lot of people aren’t used to not playing. As I’ve gotten older — it gives you an appreciation and understanding; now that I am a senior and in the position of leadership, I’m able to understand what the freshmen and sophomores are going through, able to help them out and keep the team positive, that sort of thing.”
Having appeared in 18 matches his freshman season, Casey recorded his first career start as a sophomore — then recorded 19 more, being one of just six Irish players to start all 20 matches in 2017. As a junior, he again played in all 21 games, earning a starting spot in 19. As a senior, he’s solidified himself in the first string once again.
But for all of his success since growing into a vital piece of his team, it’s one of Casey’s earliest moments that’s one of his fondest.
“I wasn’t playing a lot my freshman year, but I came on in a really big game against Syracuse,” he said. “I remember scoring a goal, and I just had no idea what was happening. I was so surprised. It was a really great moment, especially having my mom in the stands — she was really excited. That was unbelievable for me.”
It was also family that helped land Casey in South Bend in the first place.
“My older sister actually was two years above me so she persuaded me. I don’t know if I could tell her otherwise,” he said.
Beyond following in his sister’s footsteps, Casey found himself drawn to the culture he found at Notre Dame, particularly in the locker room.
“I just kind of fell in love with it when I got on campus as a freshman,” he said. “When I first met the team, it seemed like a really cohesive group. I think that’s something that’s a tradition of the team and an identity of Notre Dame soccer — they do a good job not only recruiting good soccer players, but people who have really good character, who fit well into the program. I think that’s something that we’ve carried over in the four years I’ve been here.”
Casey noted the culture has maintained the same even after his team’s 2017 coaching change.
“The [coaching] transition was easy. I know [Bobby Clark] had been here forever and was an iconic role model and coach, but Chad [Riley] has stepped in,” Casey said. “He’s put his own brand on the team, and it’s gone really well and every year, I think it’s going to keep getting better.”
With Riley’s presence has been the perpetuation of that same culture which drew Casey to Notre Dame in the first place, with Casey doing his own part to create that environment too.
“This year, the whole team is more integrated than I’ve ever seen before,” he said. “The freshmen were immediately welcomed into the team. We’re all equals — it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, a senior, a fifth year. Everyone here has the same goals. We obviously all want to be playing, but I think we understand that everyone has a role to play. There’s an edge to our team as well on the field — there’s a ruthlessness and a toughness about us, which is obviously beneficial.”
Moving forward, Casey said he is confident in his team’s ability to use their competitive edge to their advantage. With the start of ACC play against Clemson tonight, he knows he and his teammates have the ability to get it done.
“There’s been a lot of positives in the first couple of games. Obviously still a lot to work on, but the first games were tough, and it was a good way to start the season before we get into playing the ACC. We’ll also learn a lot about our team [tonight] because Clemson will be a really tough game as well,” he said. “I am really excited for the rest of the season, and I’m very optimistic, especially with the way we’ve been playing and the way the team has integrated so well together.
“It should be a good game. I’m a little nervous, but I feel like I always am in the ACC; every time we play Clemson, it’s always a really good game,” Casey said. “They play really nice attacking soccer, and I actually like playing against teams who play good soccer because I feel like it brings out the best in us. So, it should be fun.”
But it’s not just Friday Casey has circled on the calendar — it’s Tuesday, too.
“Indiana, at least for me, is probably our biggest rival,” he said. “This is a big one for us. … We’re definitely be confident going into that game.”