Raarup cherishes hard-earned walk-on spot
Greg McKenna | Friday, November 19, 2021
Axel Raarup could have played for a lot of schools. The senior, who grew up just outside the Twin Cities in Mendota Heights, MN, was the 35th-ranked long snapper in the 2018 class, according to Rubio Long Snapping, the company that runs the nation’s premier camp for the position.
During his recruiting process, the Saint Thomas Academy graduate received interest from several Ivy League schools before settling on the University of Chicago as a likely destination.
That is, until he visited Notre Dame.
“I kind of had a come-to-Jesus moment,” Raarup said. “So I reached out to the coaches, and they were gracious enough to let me try out and then join the team. And had I not, I think I would have missed out on a lot of the Notre Dame experience and a lot of the friends that I’ve made up until this point.”
When Raarup first contacted the Notre Dame coaching staff during his senior year of high school, however, the responses he received were far from encouraging.
“They said, ‘We’ve got a snapper, we’ve got two snappers, we’ll see if we can maybe get you a tryout,’” Raarup remembered. “It ended up being a thing where I just had to stay positive and hope for the best, and it worked out.”
Raarup credited his persistence to his father’s advice.
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right,” he said. “That’s what my dad always said, and I think that rings pretty true with my story.”
Raarup tried out and made the team his freshman spring. He made his first and only appearance for the Irish to date the following fall in a 52-0 victory over Bowling Green.
Raarup said that when he took the field, he tried to block out his emotions and focus on his “rep.”
“And then as I’m jogging off the field, I take a little look up at the stands,” he recounted. “And there’s more people than I’ve ever played in front of in my entire life, times like three, so it was pretty electric. Maybe not the closest game in the world, I think we were up 40 at the time, but we’ll take it.”
Raarup admitted he was initially daunted about finding his place among Notre Dame’s established walk-on brotherhood, officially named the Walk-On Player’s Union, or WOPU Nation.
“Like at any well-established institution, you need to earn your respect and find your role, and now it’s some of my closest friends and guys that I know have my back for life.”
Raarup began to truly feel like a part of the team during the leadup to the Camping World Bowl later that season and said that week before the Irish’s 33-9 victory over Iowa State was his favorite memory as a Notre Dame player.
“I remember playing pool with [junior linebacker] Marist [Liufau] for two and a half hours every night,” Raarup said. “And it was just so fun.”
A finance major and real estate minor in the Mendoza College of Business, Raarup is excited to begin working at William Blair as an investment banking analyst after graduation and credits football for teaching him how to handle stress and maintain balance in his life.
“Because if you get caught up in all the flurries of current events and just stuff going on in today’s world, you’re not going to be able to actually do anything,” he said. “So you just need to be able to focus and maintain dedication on what matters most.”
Besides his father, Raarup also made sure to thank Paul Schmidt, the father of some high school teammates who organized extra workouts for the team’s specialists after practice.
Raarup credited Schmidt for not only helping him learn the craft of long snapping, but also for serving as a “huge mentor” during his college search process.
Then, of course, are the friends Raarup has made for life.
“What Notre Dame has is great guys,” he said. “Not just good football players, but really great dudes.”