Notre Dame graduate center Sam Mustipher leads an offensive line that is without 2018 NFL draftees Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, and the team captain has helped lead the Irish to an undefeated record and No. 3 national ranking.
The center is a local product from Owings Mills, Md., went to high school at Good Counsel (Md.), and headed to South Bend, Ind., for his college career.
Mustipher said although he watched the movie "Rudy" often as a kid, he wasn't a Notre Dame fan growing up and didn't have much affiliation with the school. It wasn't until a trip to campus that he made up his mind.
"The first time I ever visited Notre Dame, I came out here with my dad and we both fell in love with it right away," Mustipher said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Oct. 26. "It was a matter of getting my mom and little brother out here to see it."
Mustipher said his parents helped with the decision to head to Notre Dame, as they've been with him every step of the way throughout his career.
"I credit all of where I'm at … to the sacrifices they've made throughout our lives," Mustipher said. "When it was crunch time and we needed to get up at 5 a.m. to get out to school or get to a workout or an opportunity for us to get to a camp, really anywhere or anything that we needed, they made it happen no matter what."
Mustipher was a first-team pick on the
Washington Post All-Met team following his senior year at Good Counsel in 2013. He played along the offensive and defensive lines in high school, though it was the former that stood out to college coaches. Mustipher helped Good Counsel average 5.4 yards per carry in 2012, per Notre Dame Athletics.
Mustipher said he left the area in large part due to a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff.
"My position coach, Harry Hiestand, who's now with the Chicago Bears, he was an integral part in me coming out here," Mustipher said. "As far as my development as a player, I knew he would push me to be the best that I could be."
This year marks the first season with two Mustiphers on the college scene; Mustipher's younger brother, PJ, is a freshman defensive tackle at Penn State. Though he wasn't involved in his brother's choice in schools, the older Mustipher loved Penn State during his own recruitment. Mustipher knew his brother would be in good hands with Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin.
"I really just let him do his own thing," Mustipher said. "He kind of blazes his own trail. He did it with high school in going to McDonogh. He likes to be his own guy."
Mustipher has developed another family during his time at Notre Dame, and he said the strong bond among teammates has contributed to their success this season. The Irish have run off eight wins to start the season after blowing out Navy Oct. 27 and now face Big Ten West Division leader Northwestern on the road Nov. 3.
Notre Dame is firmly in the College Football Playoff mix, mostly because of an offense that has scored at least 38 points in four of its last five games.
"This season's been spectacular, it's a great group of guys that come to work every day," Mustipher said. "This team coming together as a family, as a unit, that's really been the key to our success. It's just keeping that going, even through these hard months."
With four games left in the regular season plus a couple of potential postseason appearances, Mustipher's college career is winding down, and he admitted he's looked ahead to the possibility of playing at the professional level. And while he left the area for his past five years of football, Mustipher said he would love the opportunity to return home and don the purple and black for the Baltimore Ravens.
"It would be awesome," Mustipher said. "I'd be blessed to play anywhere. I'd make the most of any opportunity. But to be back home in front of my family in friends would be awesome."
For more from Mustipher, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Katie Meyers/Fighting Irish Media