In some ways his departure isn’t much different than Jaylon Smith or Will Fuller. It can just feel that way as Notre Dame’s senior class watches the reaction to offensive lineman Steve Elmer’s choice to skip his senior season for a job in Washington D.C. after graduation.
Elmer’s retirement from football subtracted 30 career starts from an offensive line already in need of rebuilding. The former early enrollee – why he’s on track to graduate in May after seven semesters – would have been Notre Dame’s most experienced starter on offense.
Instead, it’s offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, who’s started just 14 games. Elmer confided in McGlinchey during the decision-making process that stretched out during last season and came to a head in January. Elmer announced his decision in mid-February.
“Steve’s one of those guys that’s so well rounded and he’s so good at so many different things,” McGlinchey said. “He takes opportunities and he does what he wants to do. We couldn’t be prouder of him.”
McGlinchey said he couldn’t see himself taking the same path as Elmer, walking away from football early. But he also didn’t spend much time recruiting Elmer to come back for his senior season either. Instead, their conversations were more about making sure Elmer understood the finality of his decision.
Elmer’s departure leaves Notre Dame with just 15 seniors after the Irish inked 24 on National Signing Day four years ago. Two early NFL Draft departures, three medical retirements, one expulsion, two transfers and Elmer’s retirement cut that class down to its current form.
But the way his classmates see it, Elmer lived up to his end of the bargain at Notre Dame. That’s part of the reason why they can take offense when asked about the offensive lineman quitting.
“It’s frustrating because Steve did exactly what Notre Dame is all about,” said defensive end Isaac Rochell. “He came here, he played, he played well, started two years, got his degree. He got out of the school and the school got out of him. They both got what they needed.
“I don’t understand why people are hating on his decision. I respect what he did to a great amount. I’m excited for Steve.”
And yet the Irish believe the program works best with a roster that’s fully committed, a personal wrestling match that Corey Robinson also faced this winter before returning. Elmer knew he wouldn’t be all in if he returned. That’s a major reason why his former teammates see the parting of ways as mutually beneficial, even if it removes a key contributor.
“Would we want him to be on the team if he’s not fully into it?” said linebacker James Onwualu. “I think it shows how tough this really is and how time consuming and how much wear it really takes on your body. Not everybody can really do it and not everybody loves it. If you don’t love it, it’s tough to come in here every day and put in the work and the hours.
“I respect the decision and I’m excited to see him take over the world.”