He Always Cared

Playing football was something that former Irish wide receiver Joey Getherall cherished. Getherall felt alive on the field and he certainly played that way in his four years at Notre Dame. With his professional football career now over, Getherall is going back to some familiar roots and doing another thing he likes to do—help people.

When talking to former Irish great Joey Getherall, it doesn't take long before he gets those football juices going again.

"I do miss football," Getherall said. "Those were some of the best years of my life. I just miss being around the guys and being on the field running routes and catching balls."

Getherall caught plenty of balls for Bishop Amat high school in La Puente, Calif., and returned plenty of kicks, too. It didn't take long for a number of schools to take notice, including Notre Dame.

"I was being recruited by the Holtz staff at first, but then Davie came and continued to recruit me," Getherall said of the teams that recruited him out of high school.

"I took a trip to Wisconsin, and I was looking at Washington, Washington State, Oregon--pretty much PAC 10 schools and Wisconsin and Notre Dame. I thought I would end up in a PAC 10 school."

That was until he took his visit to Notre Dame.

"I remember being awestruck most of the trip," Getherall said of his first trip to South Bend. "I remember everyone telling me to dress warm. I remember stepping off the plane and it was in the mid 50s to low 60s and not a cloud in the sky. I remember thinking ‘the weather isn't that bad.'

"I remember walking around campus in awe. I'd never been around a campus like that before. I was totally engulfed in the whole Notre Dame tradition. Once I was offered, I accepted right then and there."

The California native actually grew up a fan of one of Notre Dame's biggest rivals, which made his commitment even more surprising.

"Growing up I was definitely a USC fan," he said. "As I got older I started to root for different teams just to have a little rivalry in the house because my dad was a big (USC) fan. It's always good to have a little competition in the house.

"It was always USC, but when you see Notre Dame, and you learn about their education and tradition, that's pretty inviting. You see all the players that went there--Tim Brown, "Rocket" (Raghib) Ismail and Joe Montana--they just had so much tradition and it was something I wanted to be a part of."

Getherall was certainly a part of it and made a quick name for himself with the Irish football team. The slightly-built freshmen reported to fall football camp in '97 and put on a show for his coaches and teammates.

"I remember coach Meyer challenging me to see what I could do against the older guys," he said. "I remember them putting me against all the starters, (Allen) Rossum, and all the starting safeties and he wanted to see what I was capable of.

"I remember that I kept getting open and open and making plays. I remember they took my stripe that week. They told me that I was the first guy to have his stripe taken off that early. They said they usually take the stripe off at the end of camp, but I guess I earned the respect of the coaches and the older players and they took it off.

"It definitely made me feel good to know that the older players and coaches respected me. That just made me want to work harder, and it also told me that I could play at that level."

Getherall's career at Notre Dame saw plenty of ups and downs as he battled injuries, up and down seasons, and inconsistent offenses the entire way. He admitted that it was difficult to deal with at times.

"It was definitely frustrating," Getherall admitted. "You see the talent that's around you. You see all your friends that did get drafted and are still playing and you realize we had a lot of talent and should've won more games.

"Coach Meyer, he always felt sorry for us. He knew he had the talent, but we just weren't getting the ball. He would just say ‘sorry' after the games, there wasn't anything he could do about it.

"We had guys like David Givens, Javin Hunter, myself—guys he knew that could easily put up 50 catches a year. You see these other schools where these receivers are catching 90 balls or 100 balls, it was frustrating.

"My junior year we had Jarious (Jackson) and I had 37 catches I believe and I missed three or four games. You'd think having that many catches going into your senior year that good things were going to happen.

"I remember Kevin Rogers telling me ‘we're going to have a big year for you,' and when that doesn't happen, it kind of frustrates you. But as long as we were winning, that's all I cared about, and we were winning."

There were plenty of goods times that Getherall can recall while playing for the Irish as well.

"My fondest memory was probably the very first time I ran out of that tunnel and ran onto the field to 80,000 screaming fans," he said. "That's something you'll never forget.

You don't know what it's all about then, but all you know is that you're running out of the same tunnel as Knute Rockne, Paul Hornung, Joe Montana, Tim Brown, ‘the Rocket,' all those guys.

"I'd say the plays I remember are probably the Nebraska punt return. We were losing by seven and I had a big punt return to tie the game. From that point we went into overtime and it didn't go well for us. That was an exciting moment for me."

The way the Nebraska game ended still stings according to Getherall, and even though he wouldn't say it, one could tell he's still angry about former Irish coach Bob Davie's decision to play for overtime.

"We had a lot of momentum with over a minute left and we didn't try to go for the win," Getherall said with frustration in his voice. "That was the coach's decision, and you've just got to live with that.

"It was frustrating knowing that you're playing against the No. 1 team in the nation and we weren't even ranked in the top 25 at that point. We had nothing to lose. You'd think you'd just try to go for the win. We had all the momentum. We had two big returns for touchdowns. Arnaz (Battle) was making big plays. I really thought we had a shot."

It was all for not as the Irish lost the game in overtime, but Getherall moved on and found himself trying to find a spot in the cutthroat world of the NFL.

"Professional football was a lot different," he said. "It was a job and everyone knew it was a job. If you didn't perform, you were getting cut. Watching that, you see how much effort these guys put out there. It was more about that they had to take care of themselves and that's why they played hard.

"I went to Pittsburgh and got released. Then I went to NFL Europe. After I went to NFL Europe I was with the Miami Dolphins, but I was on injured reserved for the year. After that I spent the preseason with the Indianapolis Colts and got released."

Getherall made some noise in NFL Europe only to suffer another setback, the same thing that seemed to follow him everywhere—injuries.

"I was playing real well and then I got hurt," he said of his NFL Europe experience. "I was leading NFL Europe in punt returns and was second in receptions. Since I played well, the Dolphins just kept me on their roster hoping I would get better after my injury."

But Getherall couldn't kick the injury bug and his NFL career ended.

With his professional career over, Getherall got a call from a familiar voice and an offer for a job.

"Coach Meyer gave me a call and said he wanted me to think about coming to coach with him," Getherall said. "I went do to Utah for about a week and stayed at his home. He wanted me to experience the whole thing as a coach so I could get an idea of what the whole life is like.

"I saw how much time and effort went into that. It's an eye-opening experience. You don't realize how much time they do put in.

"I was real close to getting into coaching. He said I could come work with him, or he'd find me a job working with a good staff. I thought about it, and it was real close, but I decided to join the police force instead.

"It came down to the stress and how difficult it would be on my family if I had a family. You'd have to move a lot and you wouldn't be in the same place for very long. I'd be gone a lot away from my family. Your kids wouldn't be in a situation where they're staying in one place for a long time. I guess I just didn't want to put my family through that if I have one."

While Getherall admitted that coaching was very difficult to turn down, he said a familiar calling keeps calling his name and he'll be following his heart in the very near future.

"Right now I'm doing some Real Estate, but I plan to join the L.A.P.D. in a few months," he said. "Growing up around people in law enforcement, your dad, all his friends, your godfather, I guess it's just in your blood.

"My dad's father was a police officer. My dad was a LAPD officer, he's retired now. My sister is (an officer), and I've got two brother-in-laws that are also (police officers).

"I want to join the LAPD SWAT team. I have some family friends that are in SWAT right now, and that's what I want to do.

There's an academy class in a few months and that's what I'll be jumping into. I've enjoyed helping people, and I guess it's just what I know."

Getherall says he's fond of his time spent at Notre Dame, and he's already made his first trip back to Notre Dame since graduating in 2000.

"I met a lot of great people at Notre Dame," he said. "With the dorm situation and the players living with the students, it becomes a really close-knit family. You get to know the students real well, and then they really come to cheer for you on Saturdays. That's what makes Notre Dame special—the people.

"I went to the Pittsburgh game. That was the first time I've been back. It was a great experience to be around it all again. I ran into a lot of people that I haven't seen in a long time. It really felt great to be back there again."

Getherall also says he feels honored that people still remember him and the toughness he played with while at Notre Dame.

"It makes you feel good. It's very flattering to know that the fans respected me," he said. "I tried to put everything I could in every game I played. I didn't want to let my family down. I didn't want to let anyone around me down. I didn't want anyone to ever question my effort so I worked as hard as I could so people knew that I did care."


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