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Cain Madden provides veteran pedigree and leadership for offensive line

| Friday, November 19, 2021

When graduate student Cain Madden transferred to Notre Dame this past June following five seasons at Marshall, the Irish gained a seasoned run and pass blocker who could instantly solidify the right side of the offensive line. Madden had a breakout 2019 season with the Thundering Herd, earning second team All-Conference USA honors while blocking for a rushing attack that finished second in the conference in yards per game. Madden solidified his place as one of the nation’s best offensive linemen in 2020, earning both first-team All-Conference USA and second-team AP All-America honors. He possessed the combination of size and toughness to go along with an impressive pedigree, making him the perfect fit for a Notre Dame offense built on physicality.

But while Madden’s on-field performance has been consistently strong, it is his veteran leadership that has helped hold together a unit that has been hit by the injury bug often and is running out first-time starters on the left side. Knowing that he could develop even more as a leader in his final year of eligibility contributed to Madden selecting South Bend as his new home.

“When you show up to Notre Dame, you’re surrounded by leaders,” Madden said. “There’s a whole bunch of leaders on this team, and that’s one thing that drew me here because it’s not just one or two guys. As a sixth-year guy, I’m still learning from people on our team.”

Ryan Vigilante | The Observer
Irish graduate student offensive lineman Cain Madden drops back to protect during Notre Dame’s 34-6 win over Navy on Nov. 6 at Notre Dame Stadium.

While Madden’s experience could have lent itself to leading more by example, the sixth-year senior said his leadership style involves more. His goal is to be a team-first, positive presence for everyone on the field, and he’s not afraid to be vocal when his teammates need encouragement.

“Wrapping my arms around guys and letting them know it’s alright is really my leadership style,” he said. “Just a fist bump and a ‘Go to the next play’ when something bad happens. Just keep improving.”

Now in his fourth year as a starter across two programs, Madden has shown a keen understanding for how to play his position. Earlier in the season ahead of the Cincinnati game, he stressed the importance of doing the little things right to help turn around an offensive line that was struggling.

“When you break down the film, we’re not way off — it’s just the little things,” he said. “Things like hand placement and helmet placement. We need to pay more attention to detail, but still remember that it’s football and not overthink things. It’s the little things when you get tired and fatigued late in the game, but we just need to go back to our training.”

While the Irish lost that game to the now No. 5 Bearcats, the offensive line has significantly improved over the course of the season in both run and pass protection. Madden’s presence has been steady for a unit that needed time to get its chemistry right and is finally playing to the Notre Dame standard.

“I think the biggest thing is just the tradition and the standard that’s been set for the offensive line here,” Madden said. “Raising the standard like past groups have done is important to this group as well.”

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About Colin Capece

Colin is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in political science and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He hails from the great state of New York and currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer for the 2021-2022 academic year. You can sometimes find him on Twitter at @ColinCapeceND

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