Bemenderfer Chases Dream

Thomas Bemenderfer wasn't exactly sure how the situation was going to play out, but he wanted to try it anyways. He decided to give up his football scholarship at Northwestern, and come back to his hometown, transferring to Notre Dame without even a promise of walking onto the Irish team.

A lot played into Bemenderfer's decision to transfer, including the tragic death of Northwestern head coach Randy Walker before his sophomore season.

"My heart's always been at Notre Dame, and I've always wanted to play here since as young as I can remember," Bemenderfer said. From nearby Mishawaka, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior was an all-state offensive lineman at Penn High. "Northwestern, I thought with coach Walker and all the other coaches they had there, was just an amazing unit. I went there, and there were a lot of things I couldn't control, and I decided that you only live once and you might as well do what you want, what you really want."

Bemenderfer is getting his chance to do just that.

Head coach Charlie Weis let Bemenderfer join the team as a walk-on, and has complimented him several times over the last year when talking with the media. Bemenderfer is listed third on the current Irish depth chart at center, and Weis said that he wouldn't be scared to put the junior into a game if necessary.

As a freshman at Northwestern, a lighter Bemenderfer wasn't ready to play in a game and was red-shirted. Since his last game of high school, Bemenderfer said he has added 75 pounds to his frame.

Last season, Bemenderfer ran as the Irish's scout team center, as he had to sit out the season because of NCAA transfer rules. He has evolved into a guy that Weis isn't afraid of playing.

"I feel like I got a year under my belt, so I understand a lot more of the offensive plays, and making better calls, and making better steps, and just every practice is a practice to improve and get better," Bemenderfer explained.

"I think that I've learned to play at a higher tempo, understand the game a little bit better.

"I'm just doing everything I can to put myself in a situation to be on the field, and I'm looking forward to that as much as anything."

Bemenderfer had options coming out of high school. Vanderbilt, Illinois, Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio) and Ball State were a few of his scholarship offers. He visited Notre Dame a couple times, but never received that coveted offer, and committed to Northwestern relatively early in the process.

He arrived at Northwestern, and used his first collegiate season to get bigger and stronger. Then tragedy suddenly struck on June 29, 2006, when Walker died of a heart attack.

"He was a great guy, a great coach, and I think that was a really hard hit to the Northwestern community," Bemenderfer said. "That was a big factor in my decision to come to Notre Dame."

On top of his duties at center, Bemenderfer has been working with the field goal unit. He did some long snapping last season, but isn't doing it this fall.

Though Bemenderfer isn't sure how this season or next season is going to play out, he knows that he is living his dream everyday by being a student and football player at Notre Dame.


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