Mike Anello had options.
Options are what a 3.93 grade point average in Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business will get you.
Anello graduated in December and could have taken a lucrative job on Wall Street, but decided to apply for an extra year with Notre Dame's football team and graduate school.
"I had one offer and then I had a bunch pending that I was really trying to decide on, but I decided that I was going to go through the process for the fifth year," Anello said. "I told those people then, I said, ‘We're just going to have to hold out. I apologize for delaying this, but this is something that I really want to pursue.'"
The process of gaining his fifth year of eligibility is not yet complete, but there seems no doubt that the special teams stud will be back. The former walk-on may still be able to play games with people in public about whether he is or isn't who he really is, but the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder can be sure that opponents will know exactly who he is in 2009.
Anello's story started as one of how hard work can translate into results, similar to Rudy's tale, but quickly transformed into something else. Anello became a key player on Notre Dame's special teams and one that opponents had to game plan for. Anello finished the season with 23 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
Anello's recent fame as a football player has helped his profile, but he gives the credit to the University for allowing him to build such a network off the field.
"That's the thing about Notre Dame, it's not just because I play football. I know a lot of people that have been able to utilize meeting Notre Dame people and then from there, you meet more Notre Dame people and they really look out for you," he said. "That was one of the reasons I came here and I didn't even understand how great and how close the network really was."
Anello had given thought to coming back for a fifth season for awhile and it had nothing to do with the scholarship he earned before 2008.
"Early on I was thinking about it a lot," said Anello. "I said it after one of the games, I would pay a million dollars to be able to do this. To be able to go out there and run down the field is something that I'm never going to get to do again."
In fact, running down the field is something that Anello cannot do right now.
Anello was carted off after making his final tackle of the season on Notre Dame's first punt of the regular season finale at Southern California. Anello knew something was wrong before Harrison Smith came over to try to help him up.
"I just said, ‘Harrison, it's not going to happen. Get the trainers,'" remembered Anello, who also recalled doubting himself as he told head trainer Jim Russ that he thought he broke his leg. "For a split second I was like, ‘If I just have a bruise, he's going to be laughing at me.'"
But Anello was right; he had broken his right fibia.
"The pain wasn't really there because I had so much adrenaline going because I was just so pumped up for the game," he said. "If it happened at the end of the game, I would have been OK with it, but because it happened so soon and I didn't get to play with those guys, it was tough."
Anello had surgery on his leg following the season and said that his rehab is on schedule.
"It's coming along well. It can never be fast enough. If it healed in two days, I'd probably still be like, it's not going fast enough," he said. "I'd love to be doing sprints right now, but it's coming along kind of how they planned, a little quicker actually."
Anello expects to be back working out with his team during the summer.
"I'm hoping to be a full go like the beginning of the summer. From there, just kind of go back to the work ethic of overworking," he said. "That's been the hardest thing too because I really like to overtrain and really push myself that much further and so kind of having to pull back has been tough. But I'm just waiting because I don't want to do something too early and then have an extra three weeks tacked on to the rehab time."
Some people who obviously don't know Anello well wondered if the injury would cause him to rethink his decision to come back for another season of football.
"The first few people that I asked me that, I was just like, ‘What do you mean am I thinking about coming back? That makes me want to come back even more,'" he said. "For some reason, people thought that the injury would kind of deter me some, but that just made me want to come back all the more."
Anello will be on a mission to get himself into better shape then ever this offseason.
"I've set a goal for myself this summer, I‘ve told myself that I'm going to work hard enough to get a step faster, so I'll be better next year," he said.
Anello welcomes any doubters.
"I hope so, it just makes me work harder," he said.
So Anello will put his life in the real world off for one more semester and with that decision comes a certain degree of uncertainty.
"Over the course of the next year, a lot of things are going to change so we'll see what jobs are out there," he said.
But even the reality of the nation's economic situation has not been enough to make Anello think twice about his decision to come back.
"If I had had a job offer for a billion dollars, I still would have come back to this because, like I said, I'm never going to get to do this again."