Junior high probably gave Lincoln Feist a preview of Notre Dame.
As a seventh grader, the defensive lineman played varsity football for St. Thomas More in Rapid City, S.D. That meant working against players bigger, stronger and faster. That will be the case again come summer when Feist enrolls at Notre Dame as a preferred walk-on, even one that’s a 6-foot-2, 310-pound athlete.
Feist turned down an offer from Air Force and a preferred walk-on spot at Oregon to follow his family to Notre Dame. His sister is a junior at the University and his mother is a law school graduate. Feist said his grandparents are also Irish fans. He attended a home game against USC almost 10 years ago.
“I’m just gonna go in there and compete during summer camp,” Feist said. “I’m expecting every day to be a grind, to work hard and see where it leads.”
Feist will be joined by preferred walk-ons Brandon Hutson (linebacker), Devyn Spruell (linebacker) and Robert Regan (quarterback). For Feist, the recruiting process began in earnest in November and culminated with a January visit to South Bend. He mixed with coaches and players, most notably offensive lineman Sam Bush, a preferred walk-on from last year’s class out of California.
“Notre Dame was definitely a leading contender going in and it sort of sealed the deal seeing the facilities, talking to the coaches,” Feist said. “The atmosphere was awesome. Meeting Sam Bush, I just kind of talked to him about how he got there, how his first year was going and everything was positive. It confirmed my choice.”
The four-sport athlete – football, basketball, baseball and track – said the decision to commit to Notre Dame wasn’t automatic, but a week after seeing the Irish program he made it.
“It was just the balance of academics and big-time football,” Feist said. “Oregon gave me the big-time football. Air Force was more academics. Notre Dame is the best of both worlds.
“The opportunity is there, you just have to go get it yourself. Nothing is going to be given to you.”
After moving up to the varsity level as a seventh grader at St. Thomas More, Feist grew into a full-time starter as an eighth grader at defensive tackle. He’d become a four-year all-conference performer and made all-state as an offensive lineman twice.
“What he had was the ability to hold his own at that age back in the seventh grade,” said head coach Wayne Sullivan. “He moved so well laterally and we ran a gap control defense. He could control that gap and pretty much demanded a double team as an eighth grader. He just worked hard in the weight room and made himself into a tremendous football player.
“He’s just an asset we will miss tremendously.”