The Irish football begins the 2014 season next Saturday against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium and perhaps no one will be more excited to take the field than linebacker Joe Schmidt.
Schmidt has picked up new Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder's system better than just about anyone. In fact, Schmidt is a guy that directs traffic out there and Van Gorder describes Schmidt as one of the smartest players he's ever coached on the field.
That's pretty remarkable for a guy who turned down scholarship offers from multiple schools to be a walk-on at Notre Dame. 14 months ago, he got called into Brian Kelly's office. He was a little worried wondering what he perhaps did wrong. He then was told he was getting a scholarship.
Schmidt's first move was to immediately call his dad back in California. He asked his dad how he would like to save a ton of money over the next few years.
"It's 5:30 in the morning on the west coast and he like, 'hey yeah. That's great. He we going to do that?'" Schmidt remembers his dad saying. "He just took off his breathing apparatus and sounds like Darth Vader."
"I'm like, 'hey dad--they have these things called scholarships and I got one.' It was pretty cool to have that reaction. He's like 'wow' and just speechless."
Schmidt says his mom was crying in the background thinking something terrible happened because it was 5:30 in the morning in California.
"but it was a pretty sweet conversation for me," Schmidt says with a smile.
Schmidt will likely start at linebacker Saturday when Notre Dame takes on Rice. Countdown to Kickoff gets you started at 2pm next Saturday with Notre Dame and Rice set to kickoff around 3:40pm.