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Lager living out the dream of putting on the gold helmet

| Friday, November 22, 2019

John Lager, a graduate student hailing from Golden Valley, Minnesota, started his unique football journey to becoming a tight end for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish back in the third grade.

“I actually played in third grade, the first year I could, and I didn’t play after that year because I got kicked out of the league because I hurt a lot of kids, so I thought that everybody didn’t like me,” Lager said.

It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school that he picked up football again. Attending Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Lager would go on to be a ten time letter winner in hockey, baseball and of course, football.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer
Irish graduate student tight end John Lager stands on the sidelines during Notre Dame’s 52-20 win over Navy on Nov. 16 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“I tried out again freshman year, started liking it, started liking the guys that I was with and just kept playing it. And it ended up working where I was getting recruited out of high school to play in college,” Lager said.

It was after completing his undergraduate degree at Yale in December of 2018 that Lager decided to take his fifth year of eligibility to play football for Notre Dame. Someone from his undergraduate program put him in contact with their cousin who played for Notre Dame and Lager reached out to the cousin and the coaches to explore his options at Notre Dame. After learning about the program, he decided that he wanted join the squad and see just how fun football could be at the University.

After transitioning from the Yale football program to the Notre Dame football program, Lager reflected on the difference between being in an FCS program at Yale versus the FBS program at Notre Dame. He emphasized the change in intensity and in the level of commitment that people had for the football program coming into Notre Dame.

“Here there is so many support staff, so many people that want to help you and want the team to succeed and it’s just great to take advantage and be thankful for all those resources,” Lager said.

Lager is in the ten month Master of Science Management program at Notre Dame and plans to graduate in May of 2020. Due to the nature of the program, he started at Notre Dame in the summer and talked about how welcoming the other guys on the team were this summer and how they would ask him to hang out and spend time with them.

He went on to mention his highlight of playing football at Notre Dame.

“Just the whole experience of it,” Lager said. “The entire school really cares and shows a lot of love for the football team which we love to see and hear. It’s just been great to be a part of a community like Notre Dame that cares so much about football. And to put on the gold helmet is something I think a lot of college football players dream of and I just get to live it out every day.”

Looking into the future, Lager is looking forward to classes next semester and graduating, but says that it will be bittersweet since he will miss football and being around all of his teammates so often. But, even when he leaves Notre Dame, he knows he will take the many lessons he learned here with him, especially the no excuse mentality.

“Anything I ever approach whether it’s my job, whether it’s my relationship with some person or anything really, it’s no excuses,” he said.

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