Irish want walk-on help from Iowa athlete

Growing up Irish Catholic, John Mahoney knew plenty about Notre Dame. He even visited last summer, but did so only as a possible student. Last weekend he returned to see the football program a potential preferred walk-on.

It didn’t take much for Notre Dame to impress John Mahoney last weekend. The Irish did that simply by asking the potential preferred walk-on safety to campus for a recruiting weekend that stretched the attention of the coaching staff.

But when Mahoney arrived from Des Moines, Iowa, the Notre Dame program kept going with the 6-foot, 199-pound athlete. Mahoney connected with head coach Brian Kelly, attended the basketball game against Syracuse and sat down with special teams coach Brian Polian.

“The Notre Dame visit was really awesome,” Mahoney said. “It exceeded my wildest expectations as far as the coaches knowing about me, seeing me as part of the program. The overall atmosphere, I was really blown away.”

Now comes the harder part, choosing among Notre Dame, Iowa State, Cornell and Colgate. Mahoney plans to see the Cyclones again today, a campus where he’s plenty comfortable considering both parents attended there. He’ll see Cornell and Colgate this weekend, with plans for a National Signing Day decision.

Mahoney, who said he’s already been admitted to Notre Dame, started checking out the University last summer on an academic tour. When he arrived he didn’t think much about playing football, despite a Valley High School career that included first-team all-state honors.

Mahoney also carries a 4.19 GPA, 35 ACT and 1510 SAT. He wants to study business and is well aware of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame and its No. 1 ranking nationally.

“My first priority is academics and throughout this process my goal is to make a 40-year decision rather than a four-year decision,” Mahoney said. “The reality is no one plays football forever, so I want a degree that sets me up for the rest of my life.

“Beyond that, I want to play football at the highest level I can. But at the same time, I’d like the opportunity to contribute too. The campus and student community and how I fit in matters as well.”

Notre Dame sees an in-the-box safety and potential special teams contributor in Mahoney, who said the strength of his game is run support and reading offensive schemes. It appears those skills mesh with what defensive coordinator Mike Elko wants to get done.

“I can play sideline-to-sideline in run support like a fourth linebacker,” Mahoney said. “In a 4-2-5 scheme, maybe that fifth defensive back comes up. I think that’s the strongest part of my game, run support and a willingness to hit.”

While Mahoney didn’t follow Notre Dame in extensive detail growing up, the player panel put on by the Irish staff last weekend included receiver Chris Finke, who enrolled as a preferred walk-on and earned a scholarship last August. That resonated with Mahoney.

“Obviously going in the goal is to achieve at the highest level that you’re capable of,” he said. “While I was out in South Bend the coaches told plenty of stories of walk-ons who contributed. That’s a goal of mine. Whether or not that’s realistic, some of that is out of my control, but contributing to the win-loss record of the team during my career is important to me.”


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