The Fighting Irishman

Our "Incoming Irish" conversations continue with offensive lineman, Jimmy Byrne.

He says he is 75 percent Irish but Jimmy Byrne is 100 percent Fighting Irish. He turned down an offer from Urban Meyer even though he is a born-and-bred Ohio State fan, knowing he wanted to come to Notre Dame from the first time he visited campus. Irish fans can thank offensive line Coach Harry Hiestand for getting the incoming freshman guard to switch what was a lifelong allegiance.

"Coach Hiestand came to visit me and we became really good friends," Byrne said. "That was very important to me and then after I visited campus and met the other players and coaches I knew Notre Dame was a special place."

  The three-fourth's Irishman stands six feet four inches tall and 305 pounds and hails from St. Ignatius high school in Cleveland, Ohio. He'll join an Irish offensive line that is arguably the team's most competitive unit going entering 2014 and Byrne said his coaches see him playing in the interior, at either center or guard. 

That means he will have to compete not only with returning players Nick Martin, Conor Hanratty, Mike Hegarty, and Christian Lombard, but also incoming freshman Sam Mustipher. Despite the competition, Byrne's coaches haven't fully decided whether to redshirt him or others.

"Coach (Brian) Kelly said to me and the other linemen to not think about redshirting at the moment because you never know what could happen and who could be playing," Byrne said.

If veterans remain in good health, the reality will likely be a season on the sidelines, always hard for former high school studs to stand and watch while others play ahead of them.

"Redshirting would definitely be a different experience for me because I have started for every team I have been on since grade school," Byrne said. "But it will be tough for a lot of kids to stand on the sideline when they are usually used to starting."

Whether he redshirts or not, Byrne is looking forward to learning from his coaches and the older players. He is a four star recruit but he knows his own strengths and weaknesses.

"I think I am a good pass blocker and have some of that down," Byrne said. "I can get better at run blocking and I am just looking forward to working with all my coaches and improving."

The Next Step

Going off to college can be a daunting experience for any freshman, but that feeling intensifies when you add playing football at a top program. Byrne is considering a major in computing or business, but that isn't what concerns him at the moment. Now he is focused on the end of June and that first practice, even if there are some nerves.

"I am kind of in between nervous and excited," Byrne said.  "It will be difficult to learn a whole new playbook and schemes but as I go to meetings I will pick that up and improve."

Another benefit of playing at Notre Dame is the amount of televised marquee matchups the players take part in. Top teams litter the 2014 schedule but Byrne wishes he could play one rival in particular.

"Playing against Stanford and USC will be cool because they are big rivalries," Byrne said. "But I would have loved a chance to play Boston College because my former teammate and good friend Kevin Kavalec plays there and it would have been nice to line up against him."

Byrne will have to wait until a 2015 date at historic Fenway Park for a matchup with his friend and the Eagles, until then, South Bend will suffice.

"I wanted to choose somewhere that is just three or four hours away so my parents could come visit," Byrne said.  "I'm 75 percent Irish so it was it was definitely cool to come to a place with that heritage." Top Stories