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Bauer inspires future of the program through grit and grace

Graduate student linebacker and captain Bo Bauer has been a strong presence for the Irish throughout his four years at Notre Dame. Though a season-ending knee injury cut his gameplay prematurely, Bauer’s legacy surely will be remembered among the team and Irish fans. As an emotional leader of the team, Bauer has helped motivate and hold his teammates accountable in times of failure and doubt. 

Bauer came to Notre Dame after a very successful high school career where he was a finalist for the 2017 Butkus Award, geared toward the top high school linebackers in the country. The Erie Pennsylvania native turned down offers from Michigan State, Penn State and Vanderbilt, among others, to suit up for the Irish. Bauer wasted no time getting in on the action, as he played in all 13 games as a freshman. Bauer started his career as a third down specialist as a linebacker and a major contributor on special teams, but earned more playing time as his career progressed. 

Bauer blocked a punt as a sophomore against Michigan and continued that trend this year against Marshall. This first blocked punt of the season set the tone for the Irish, who are now leading the nation in blocked punts. With Bauer, Foskey also had game changing punts, this time against UNLV. The two had a running joke back and forth about who could get the most blocks for the season. 

“He gets a couple punt blocks every year,” Foskey said post-UNLV. “We’re going back and forth trying to get punt blocks, but I think I’m ahead right now.”

This “competition” between the two players had to come to an end after Bauer’s injury, though he was still as much involved with the block game from the sidelines. After his injury, Bauer watched the Stanford game on crutches and predicted Kollie would get his first career punt block after helping him with film study during the week. 

“He’s a great captain. He leads the special teams in the right way,” Foskey said. “He was coaching up everybody, especially me, to get a punt block.”

Arguably Bauer’s best season came last year in 2021 as he had 47 tackles, 4.5 for loss and garnered 1.5 sacks. The linebacker also had a pivotal 79 yard interception return against USC to secure the Irish victory. The leadership he displayed as team captain this season  helped carry the Irish through devastating losses such as Marshall. Bauer stressed the importance of self-evaluation and took accountability for the success of his team. 

“The first thing I said is ‘what could I have done to, you know, get these guys to the point,’” Bauer said days after the Marshall loss. “We’ve had great leaders who have not let the standard fall. And now, that’s on my shoulders.”

These high standards made a tough loss to Marshall extra difficult for Bauer as a leader. 

“It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life … to walk around the locker room and look these guys in the eye who’ve given me the greatest gift, the greatest trust in my life to be a captain and lead these guys,” Bauer said before the Cal game. 

Fast forward, and the Irish were on a win streak following Marshall. Bauer had his sights set on former defensive linemen Kurt Hinish’s record of 61 games played. However, the pursuit ended abruptly at 56 games as he also suffered a season ending knee injury, this time in practice after the BYU game. Dick Corbett head coach Marcus Freeman and fellow teammates were devastated at the news.

“[Bauer] sustained a knee injury in practice on Tuesday, which is devastating just because he’s a captain and he provides so much more than just production,” Freeman said pre-Stanford. “Just the energy, the ability to motivate our players, it’ll be a tremendous loss for us. So, he’s out for the year.”

Though he has not seen as much time on the field this year, Bauer’s role as a leader, motivator and beacon of hope on the sidelines as well as in the locker room has set the right example for the team. 

“I think a lot of the time that it comes down to the guys, we all love each other so much that we wanna make the play,” Bauer said. “It’s ‘we want to win the game together to see our brothers happy and successful’ and we just kind of have to make the game smaller. Just, ‘look, what’s my job this play’ and do that over and over and over again.”

Bauer’s senior day may not be the one he dreamed of as a freshman, but his impact on and off the field has helped the Irish navigate a choppy season and the Irish faithful will miss having his energetic presence on the field.

Contact Madeline Ladd at mladd2@nd.edu

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