A year after suffering a stroke, Matt Hegarty starting at center for Notre Dame

This is the time of year when people reflect on what they are thankful for.

For one Irish football player simply being involved with the Irish football program at this point in his life is something he's very thankful for--let alone what's he is now a part of.

Irish junior Matt Hegarty will start at center for Notre Dame on Saturday in the regular season finale at Stanford. It will be his first career start.

What makes that news particularly remarkable is that one year ago, Hegarty suffered a stroke and later he had surgery to repair his heart.

And now he will be starting in a college football game. Unreal.

"At different times in your life, your priorities change," Hegarty explains. "This time last year, I was thankful for my health. This time of year, I'm still thankful for that but I'm also thankful to be able to go out and play against a great Stanford team with a great group of guys that we have here, especially on the offensive line--I couldn't ask for anything more."

Hegarty got his shot after starting center Nick Martin was injured during the 1st quarter of the BYU game. Martin is out for the reason of the season.

As medical personnel checked on Martin on the field, Hegarty quickly began taking snaps with quarterback Tommy Rees.

"First thing I was thinking was that I have to get my hands warm so I can figure these snaps back and keep the game going," Hegarty says with a smile.

"As I settled in and taking it in, it was a pretty incredible feeling to realize the opportunity I had to play there. To step in for the team when they really needed it and to be able to contribute like that was a great feeling."

Notre Dame and Stanford will kickoff at 7pm EST on Saturday night in Palo Alto. The Cardinal are ranked 8th in the country.

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