The University of Notre Dame finally announced on Wednesday that the school's Faculty Board on Athletics has accepted the applications of the five seniors who applied for a fifth year of school.
Cornerback Mike Anello, offensive tackle Paul Duncan, safeties Ray Herring and Kyle McCarthy and linebacker Scott Smith have either graduated or will graduate this May and will enroll in the school's graduate studies program.
Anello is a former walk-on who became a fan favorite with his play on special teams.
"It's exciting because as I've told you guys before, the opportunity to come back here and play another year is something that I couldn't have dreamt about," he said.
Anello will be counted on again as a special teams whiz while McCarthy is expected to be the starter again at strong safety. Duncan is the front-runner to replace Michael Turkovich at left tackle while Herring and Smith will provide the defense with quality depth.
Typically, those announcements are made shortly after National Signing Day in February, but this year it took longer and made for some interesting moments this spring.
With the process not yet complete, Notre Dame officials, including head coach Charlie Weis, were unable to refer to any of the fifth-year prospects by name. Weis referred to Duncan simply as ‘a left tackle' and none of the five were listed on the spring roster or depth chart.
But Weis was finally able to offer his thoughts with a statement on Wednesday.
"Today I received the news that five of our current seniors who applied for a fifth year have all been approved," he said. "We are happy to officially include all five players onto our roster. Their leadership is greatly appreciated."
As fifth-year seniors, all five will accept their roles as team leaders.
"Ever since I came to Notre Dame, I've been kind of in the background a little bit and I took that to heart and I just kind of kept it to myself," McCarthy said. "I've been working hard in the weight room and all that so I showed a little bit of it last year and hopefully can move forward next year and continue."
Anello was even further in the background as a non-scholarship athlete and has been waiting for a chance to have a true voice.
"That was one of the hardest things for me because coming from high school I was always that verbal leader. I'd lead by example, but also I'd be able to push people verbally," he said. "That was one of the hardest things, having to sit by and be like, ‘It's not really my place at this point.' But now, I'm excited about that because that is more my area now."
Anello, who is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered in the regular season finale at Southern California, has not been able to lead by example this spring.
"I've definitely kind of tried to get in some guys' ears and really be like, ‘C'mon, you can push yourself harder,'" he said. "Since I can't really lead by example this spring, I've really tried to do that a lot more. As guys have bad days, because you're going to have that when you have 15 practices, I just try to pick them up a little bit."
Anello is confident that he has earned his teammates' respect.
"They see my work ethic and I've been able to produce some on the field too," he said.