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senior day 2023

Sam Assaf looks back after walking on football, lacrosse teams

| Friday, November 17, 2023

Notre Dame Athletics
Graduate student running back Sam Assaf jogs off the field.

This season, freshman wide receiver Jordan Faison emerged as one of the team’s breakout players and was constantly introduced as a lacrosse player who walked onto the football team. And Faison has absolutely earned the attention he has received. He has stepped up in big moments, like when he answered the bell against Louisville with a 36-yard touchdown reception.

But Faison’s path is by no means a unique one. Graduate student running back Sam Assaf walked onto the football team at the suggestion of his older brother, Mick. Sam had only one thought:

“Why not?”

The decision was an easy one for Assaf. After he spent a year and a half playing lacrosse at Amherst College in Massachusetts, he transferred to Notre Dame. He spent his sophomore spring semester training for lacrosse tryouts in the fall, but the solo routine felt isolating, especially during COVID-19.

Assaf remembers thinking how much he wanted to be a part of a team again for the unique sense of camaraderie.

“I am so lonely. I just want to be on a team, competing, practicing,” he said. “The team is just so special, being a part of a team.”

Thanks to his excellent conditioning as a lacrosse player — Assaf plays defense — Assaf made it onto the football team as a running back, a position he had never played before in his life.

“I never played running back before in my life,” he said. “Like the first spring ball practice, [I] got kicked out of run tracks, which is like quarterback-running back handoffs, by Tommy Rees because I didn’t know how to take a handoff.”

Assaf continued playing on the football and lacrosse teams while balancing a full academic course load. During his undergraduate years, he studied economics with a concentration in financial economics and econometrics while minoring in data science and classical studies. He finished with a 3.998 GPA.

Now, as a graduate student, he is studying data analytics with a concentration in sports analytics at the Mendoza College of Business. The entire experience, from the classroom to student life to, of course, athletics, has been better than Assaf could have imagined.

“I couldn’t have even have dreamt of all this,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll be laying in bed or whatever just thinking about it, like, how the heck is this real. Practicing on Notre Dame football, playing lacrosse. It’s unbelievable.”

In his time at Notre Dame, a few special moments stand out to Assaf: winning the lacrosse national championship last year, gaining a first down against Central Michigan this season and earning Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year last season.

Assaf said the coaching staffs of each team have been incredibly accommodating to his schedule, allowing him to participate with both teams in the spring.

“In the fall, I don’t do any lacrosse. But typically, in the spring, I’m doing all football lifts and anywhere from one to three football practices a week. And then, lacrosse every afternoon. The spring can get really exhausting,” he said.

Assaf doesn’t have any concrete plans as of right now; those will come later, after the lacrosse season. But whatever he does end up doing, odds are high it will involve a sport he played at Notre Dame.

“I want to do sports analytics, likely in football, but some sort of sports analytics.”

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About Thomas Zwiller

I am a junior at Holy Cross College. I love covering the NCAAF, NFL, and all things Holy Cross. Comment with any questions, statements of outrage or the like, I will try my best to reply.

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