An offseason of sweeping changes for the Notre Dame football program was spearheaded by the team’s six team captains.
Rather than wait until the final days of preseason practice in August, head coach Brian Kelly named the team captains for the 2017 season in December, an unusual move that appears to be paying dividends for the Irish.
“It’s certainly made our jobs a lot easier,” said fifth-year senior offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 22nd two-time captain in Notre Dame history.
McGlinchey, along with senior linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, senior safety Drue Tranquill, senior offensive guard Quenton Nelson and senior receiver Austin Webster, have been tasked with getting the Irish back on track after a 4-8 season.
Former quarterback DeShone Kizer, who elected to enter the NFL Draft with two seasons of eligibility remaining, was also named a captain at the Echoes Awards banquet.
Being a captain throughout the offseason has been a positive for Martini.
“It gives us the opportunity to lead early on and it establishes who those people are so we can go out and do our jobs and have the team back us up in our leadership roles,” Martini said. “It’s been crucial for this offseason to get through those tough workouts and those tough practices is to have that leadership and have those guys to lean on.”
McGlinchey, who was a 2016 captain with linebacker James Onwualu, defensive lineman Isaac Rochell and receiver Torii Hunter Jr., said knowing who the captains are has only been a positive for a team that’s looking to bounce back.
“It’s also put us all at ease in a way,” McGlinchey said. “Going into the season you kind of know you’re going to be a leader by the time you get there, but until you finally get the title it’s kind of just a chip on your shoulder a little bit. The guys that he’s put into place, along with me continuing on, have done a great job this spring.”
With Kizer gone, Kelly said the Irish have the option of adding another team captain.
Kelly discussed his team’s leadership structure this spring.
“We've included our leadership group to not just be about our captains, but to be about a number of players, from our quarterbacks to players that we've identified this year and moving forward who will be future leaders in our program that have responsibilities, whether it's in the locker room, our players' lounge, whether they are swag team captains,” Kelly said. “We have eight teams that are responsible for a group of players, accountability teams. They're out front, and they have to be in leadership positions, holding players accountable on a day-to-day basis. So that's been going on for the last eight weeks.
“I have weekly meetings with our senior captains and our leaders. We've used the Rosenthal Academy to even add more for our captains and leaders. So a lot of things that I think have added to our leadership group and strengthened their ability and confidence more than anything else, to lead in the manner that we need them to.”
Kelly made the decision to name the captains early for a reason. McGlinchey thinks it’s paying off.
“He was right when he said that it’s hard to kind of get a feel for what your team is when you kind of (determine) captains a week before the season starts,” McGlinchey said of Kelly’s change. “That was big for us. It gave us an opportunity to start working together before we were in the line of fire. It’s been huge for us.”
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