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‘I wouldn’t take anything back’: Dirksen has developed on and off the field

| Friday, November 19, 2021

In recent years, Notre Dame has become one of the top destinations in the country for offensive linemen. Not only does it stand out because of the quality of the players they produce, but the culture within the position group is unique as well. Senior guard John Dirksen knew immediately when he visited Notre Dame that the culture of the group was something special.

“You did get a feel for the culture and the camaraderie specifically to the [offensive] line,” he said.

In addition to being close to his hometown of Maria Stein, Ohio, it was one of the main reasons he decided to come to South Bend. 

While Dirksen hasn’t seen much playing time outside of special teams, he has played in some big contests for the Irish.

“The best game I’ve ever been a part of was probably the Clemson game,” Dirksen said, referring to the Irish’s 47-40 double-overtime win against then No. 1 Clemson last year. “The best moment was everyone rushing the field because we were just so excited.”

Although he redshirted his freshman year in 2018, Dirksen still got to experience the atmosphere of the College Football Playoff. Last year, he got to relive the experience, but this time, on the field.

“That was pretty sweet, getting to do that two times in a career,” he said. 

Nathanial George | The Observer
Irish senior offensive lineman raises an arm in the air after singing the alma mater following Notre Dame’s 32-29 win over Toledo on Sep. 11 at Notre Dame Stadium.

As a sophomore, Dirksen played in eight games, solely on special teams. Last year, he saw action in eleven of the team’s twelve contests, including in the win over Clemson and in the Rose Bowl against Alabama. He was the primary backup for Aaron Banks, who currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers, and carved out an important role on special teams as the team made its run to the College Football Playoff. This year, he has served as the backup at right guard for the Marshall transfer Cain Madden. 

Dirksen has had the opportunity to work with a number of future NFL linemen while with the Irish, and many of them served as mentors for him.

“There’s just been so many older guys before me that have just helped out,” Dirksen said. “[Tommy] Kramer, [Robert] Hainsey, Liam Eichenberg, all of them are looking out for you. I came here as a freshman, all these guys really helped me transition into college.”

After graduation, Dirksen, who describes himself as a “homebody” plans to move back home near his family in Ohio, and look for a job in the accounting field, although he majored in economics at Notre Dame. 

When he arrived in South Bend, Dirksen did not anticipate the level of difficulty of being a student-athlete at Notre Dame, but the challenges, both on and off the field, have shaped who he is today.

“I wouldn’t take anything back,” he said. “It really developed me as a man, you can’t find a whole lot of programs where it’s challenging academically and it’s also a really competitive football program.”

About Liam Coolican

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