Notre Dame fans are set to benefit, at least tangentially, from a healthy dose of the teen influence every time redshirt-freshman safety Matthias Farley makes a play, both Saturday vs. Michigan and over the next four football seasons.
The former high school soccer player had no interest in playing football. Not with his buddies who dominated under Friday night's lights, and not at the continued behest of Charlotte Christian School head coach, Jason Estep.
Fortunately for Irish fans, Farley's high school soccer team was terrible, and his friends were experiencing the other end of the athletic spectrum on the gridiron.
"We had two losing seasons back to back and the football team had gone to the state championship and won it one year," said Farley. "All my buddies were on the football team and were like, "Dude, we're awesome, blah, blah, blah."
"Going into the spring of my sophomore year, coach Jason Estep said, 'Just give it a chance, Matthias, just give it a chance.' He was always in my ear. I figured I had nothing to lose and if I didn't like it I could still play soccer my senior year.
"I went out (for football) that spring, had a hard time adjusting, but thanks to good coaching and extra time they spent with me, it was a positive transition and I haven't looked back since."
Since, the 5'11" Farley earned three-star designation from Scout.com, which naturally earned the moniker "underrated" from Irish fans. After a 2011 freshman season spent as a Scout Team wide receiver Farley has been climbing the ladder at safety, a role and responsibility he's quite taken with.
"From the get-go I always liked the aspect of defense," said Farley. "The offense is supposed to score and you're supposed to stop them. So you're out there battling with your brothers. Its just a tight unit, everyone picks everyone up. Being on the defensive side of the ball is a brotherhood and I really enjoy the camaraderie."
Farley opened the 2012 season as the team's starting field linebacker, a specialized position vs. the unique triple-option offense of the Naval Academy. He positing was two-fold: Farley is a solid tackler and disciplined athlete…he also was not yet trusted to patrol the back line, and thus Jamoris Slaughter, last year's Dog 'backer vs. option teams, remained at safety.
Slaughter though injured his shoulder during a brutal collision vs. Purdue, forcing Farley into the lineup at safety. The 5th-year senior leader suffered a more serious injury last week, his ruptured Achilles tendon ending his season and likely his Irish playing career.
Enter Farley, the 'Next Man In' at safety, a spot he's grown to love.
"I didn't love it as first as I loved soccer," said Farley of that initial foray into football. "I was just so frustrated with (losing) it took the love out of the game so I wanted to do something else. Working up to it I enjoyed the camaraderie of (football).
"I don't know if I didn't love it at first or just didn't like the fact that I wasn't good at it. Being the guy that heard, 'No Farley do this, no Farley do that.' In soccer I was pretty good so that wasn't (an issue). In football I got bogged down with doing it wrong. Once, the season started, I fell in love with it instantly."
Farley's yet to hit the half-way point of his fourth career football season. Outsiders might see that as a weakness -- inexperience the foil of many young defensive backs. Farley feels no farther behind than would any redshirt-freshman about to play his fourth collegiate contest.
"The transition is a big jump for anyone, whether you played your whole life or not," he offered of the high school to South Bend leap.
It helps to be a quick study.