In 2006, Greg Mailey’s father brought him to campus for his first Notre Dame football game. During the player’s walk that fall in South Bend, Irish starting quarterback Brady Quinn high-fived Mailey, unknowingly setting Mailey on course to be a future walk-on for the team.
“I fell in love with it, the campus and everything,” Mailey said of that visit 16 years ago.
“I was a Notre Dame fan growing up, my whole life and I wanted nothing more than to play football at Notre Dame,” he added.
Even so, it was not a straightforward path for Mailey who received offers from FCS schools and even a preferred walk-on spot at Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State.
“Ultimately, I got a preferred walk-on opportunity here [at Notre Dame]. It was a no-brainer and I’m so glad I did it,” Mailey said.
Five years later and his experience lets him take a wider view of the program and the reasons he’s so happy with his decision all that time ago.
“What stands out about Notre Dame is that people are genuine and they want to see you succeed,” he said. “And not just for the team, they want you to succeed as a person and that’s what’s so special about this place and this program.”
This is Mailey’s last semester on campus. After the season is over, he will wrap up the fall semester then move to Chicago for a consulting job. With a looming conclusion to his time at Notre Dame, Mailey had a chance to look back on some of his fondest memories from college.
“Both those wins versus Clemson are something I’ll hold on to for a long time, especially the one in 2020 when it was No.1 vs. No. 4. With everything else going on, getting COVID tested and just trying to survive the week, to make it to the game and then going on to beat them and have everyone storm the field was pretty special,” he said.
As he enters his final games as a college football player, Mailey offered perspective on the lifelong bonds that he has built with his Irish teammates.
“Never again will you walk into a locker room with a hundred of your closest friends that you consider family and work toward one goal,” Mailey said. “It’s special and once you realize that, you start to make the days count that much more because when you take that gold helmet off, it comes off forever, but the relationships and the bonds built over the years don’t.”