Greg Pauly has seen it all. He knows the depression of injury. He's seen the very highs of winning and the very lows of losing while at Notre Dame. He's seen the ugliness of a coaching change and the uncertainty that brings. After it all, Pauly can still crack a smile.
"It has been a wild ride," Pauly said of his career at Notre Dame. "I never thought I go through this much. With the injury, the bad seasons, the good seasons, the coaching change, last year, it's all been crazy. I'm just hoping to leave on a high note. I just want to have one last great season."
Pauly is now in his fifth fall camp with the Irish. He says they've all been pretty much the same for him.
"I'm bigger and healthier and I'm one of the older guys now," said Pauly when asked what's different about this camp. "They all tend to be the same. You work hard and hope to stay healthy. There's a lot more responsibility on my back. I'm trying to be a leader out there for the team."
Irish defensive line coach Greg Mattison has coached Pauly his entire career at Notre Dame. Pauly says Mattison believes in one thing early in fall camp.
"Right now our whole emphasis is on technique," he said. "He doesn't believe in coaching anything but that first. If you don't come out with that, you're not going to play. Right now we're trying to correct all our technique and have every step be perfect."
The Irish offense and defense have been slugging it out so far in fall camp. Pauly said it changes daily as to which side of the ball gets the better of the other. On this particular day, the defense had their way with the offense. But, the marketing and economics major says the offense has been holding their own—much to his chagrin.
"We have some meetings," said Pauly when asked what happens when the offense has the better day during a particular practice. "Some people have some things to say and we just need to get everything back on track and get the attitude straight. We always bounce back after a bad practice where they might've got the better of us.
"That's really be a focus this whole camp—the leaders emerging and coming out and saying things that need to be said and kind of getting rid of the dead weight out there."
Playing next to Pauly this season will likely be either junior nose guard Derek Landri or sophomore Trevor Laws. Neither player has much experience with Landri logging the only time with 73:45 minutes of playing time.
"They're both really quick players," Pauly said of Landri and Laws. "Either one of them, when they're in there, I know they're going to get the job done and we can count on them. Whichever way it ends up with one guy starting, I think the other guy is going to play a lot. I feel real comfortable playing next to both of them."
The former USA Today first-team All-American says he's also getting some snaps at the nose guard position this fall.
"We're expected to play both nose and the three technique," Pauly said. "I've been doing both for how many years now? It's just something we do so I've been getting some reps at nose."
Another area of concern for Irish fans is the secondary this season. The fifth-year senior says he's not concerned about the Irish secondary this season.
"They're a young group, but I've seen a lot of improvement," Pauly said of the secondary. "We've got some pretty good receivers and they're working against them every day—that has to make you a better player. I think if they can cover our receivers, they can cover anyone in the country."
Many people speculated that Pauly would end up along the offensive line during his career at Notre Dame due to his knee injury he suffered before reporting to Notre Dame. Pauly said he's always thought of himself as a defensive lineman.
"I think you've got to be smarter," Pauly said laughingly when describing the difference between offensive and defensive linemen. "I think you need to be more aggressive than offensive linemen. You're more in a mode of attacking and that and just being more aggressive I think. We're usually a lot quicker."
Every defensive linemen we've ever spoken to complains about how much offensive linemen hold during practice and in games. Pauly is no different in this area.
"It's really not fair," said Pauly of the cheating offensive linemen. "They hold you on every play it seems. That's the only way they can win.
"When someone is holding you, it's kind of hard to do something about that without getting kicked out of a game. You've just got to keep working hard and hopefully the ref calls it. You can get a shot in now and again if it's constant."
Defensive line coach Greg Mattison recently told Irish Eyes that he's been impressed with the Irish pass rush so far this fall camp. We asked Pauly if that was a big focus for the defensive line this fall.
"I hope we beat the number of sacks we had last year," Pauly said. "It's been a goal of ours. I hope we all get a lot more than we had last year. (Justin) Tuck had a lot, but we all could've contributed more. I think that's been a focus for a lot of us and I think we've improved in our pass rush."
With the graduation of both Cedric Hilliard and Darrell Campbell along the interior defensive line, some are concerned that the opposition will be able to run on Notre Dame. Pauly replaces Campbell and Landri or Laws will replace Hilliard. We asked Pauly if the defense has struggled against the run so far in fall camp.
"Sometimes we are, but I think we're improving and correcting what needs to be corrected," Pauly said. "It takes a while for everyone to kind of get it and it just takes one guy messing up. We've worked a lot on it. It's about technique, effort, strength, players not having busts on the line, the backers filing the right holes and being strong coming off the ball. We're starting to do all of that now."
One thing is certain, this defense appears to be having a lot more fun than the defense we saw in 2003. There appears to be much more emotion and celebration in this Irish defense—including Pauly.
"You've noticed that?" Pauly asked. "When you're out there having fun, it always gives you much more of and advantage over the other team. It's been more fun this year already. Hopefully we can carry that into the season."
One can tell Pauly is looking to enjoy his final season at Notre Dame. He's always been enjoyable to talk to, but we've seen a looser Pauly so far this season. Will this be the season we see Pauly become the All-American we all thought he'd be at Notre Dame?