For Chris Velotta ‘19, playing football at the University of Notre Dame was more than idea – it has been his dream since childhood.
Velotta’s dream has come true this fall. In August, Velotta earned a walk-on spot for the Notre Dame football. For the co-captain of the 2018 Wildcats’ football team, this season is a culmination of years of hard work.
Editor’s Note: For this article, we used a question and answer format to catch up with Chris. We hope you enjoy it!
Luke Mincer: Chris, what inspired or influenced you to walk-on at Notre Dame?
Chris Velotta: “My inspiration to walk on is a bit complex. I thought the onside kick last year against St. Ed’s was my last down of football ever. I saw my friends go on to sign to play college sports in the spring, while I still didn’t know what university I was going to attend. I began to question what I really wanted for the next chapter of my life. When I got into Notre Dame, I realized that half of my childhood dream came true. At that point, I decided I didn’t want to leave any money on the table. My childhood self wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t give football a shot.”
LM: How has the Saint Ignatius football program prepared you for walking onto Notre Dame?
CV: “The discipline we learned in the Saint Ignatius football program is what prepared me the most for ND. Coach Kyle expects a certain standard of work and time management. Anyone who has gone through the program can attest to that. Coach Rubino’s lifting program has me well prepared for college. I have a great foundation of lifting experience that I can build on while other players have to start from scratch. Honestly, there are too many people to thank, but in addition to Coach Kyle and Rubino, I’d like to give a special thanks to Coach Franzinger, KJ [DB Coach Kevin Johnson], [DB Coach John] Pieschalski, [DL Coach Dave] Cicetti, and [Mr. Joe] Eynon for playing such a great role in helping me become the man I am today. Ignatius is comprised of great men- teachers, coaches, and students- and I couldn't be more thankful for them and what they have taught me.
LM: Has faith played a role in your journey at Notre Dame?
CV: “Faith has played a major role in my life. It’s how I was raised. While many schools have excellent academics and athletics few combine those with an emphasis on Catholicism. I’m proud of my religion and intend on furthering my faith here. It’s God that gave me these opportunities in the first place.”
LM: How has your experience been in both college life as well as athletics as ND?
CV: “College academics are definitely a step up from high school, but thanks to the countless teachers that mentored me at Ignatius, there’s nothing I’m not prepared for in South Bend.”
LM: What are you excited for the future?
CV: “I’m taking college one day at a time. While I am excited about the future and what a Notre Dame education has to offer, one can never really know what lies ahead, so I’m going to savor this experience while it lasts.”
I spoke to the Assistant Principal of Discipline, and Defensive Coordinator, Mr. Ryan Franzinger ‘02 a few questions regarding Skip.
LM: How would you describe Chris both on the field, and off the field?
Coach Franzinger: “Chris is a model of an Ignatian, and what's good about Chris is that he didn't separate his on the field, and off the field, he approaches everything with a positive attitude, a contagious attitude. A lot of energy put forward to be great.”
I have grown up with the Velotta’s. I played football with Chris’s brother, Nick, from 5th through 8th grade, gone to the same school with these guys. I go to the same Sunday morning mass every weekend, and from my standpoint, our East Side community, as well as the Saint Ignatius community is thrilled to hear that Chris earned a spot as a walk-on for ND.
“I am thrilled that he made this decision,” said Mr. Franzinger, who walked onto The Ohio State University football team. “It’s a tremendous challenge to take on to be a walk-on, in which you are in a new school, a new social life, new academics, new teammates, and you have to know what to expect. I am mostly excited that he took on a tremendous challenge. I don’t care if he doesn’t play one snap, or if he plays 100 snaps, that’s totally insignificant, walking on is a risk. He is spending a lot of time with football, he could be using this time for social life, academics, etc. Walking on is a risk, and it's good to see people take it, because you really find out a lot about yourself. The only thing I am worried about is if he's working hard, and if he’s being a good teammate.”
Chris Velotta will be suiting up for the next home game on November 2, as the Fighting Irish face off against Virginia Tech.
If you're looking for Velotta, look for #30 on the sidelines. Fellow Wildcat Liam Eichenberg '15 also plays for the Fighting Irish. You'll see #74 at the starting left tackle spot.