Two hours before the Fighting Irish took on the Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy Saturday, Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet made his way across campus as part of the team’s “march to the stadium.”
Amid all of the cheers of fans lined up to see the team, Kmet stopped in his tracks when he saw a familiar face: Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, his former football coach at Saint Viator High School.
“Now, it’s going to be a good day,” Kmet said as he shook hands with Fr. Hall, in advance of the Irish taking on the 23rd-ranked Midshipmen.
What’s more, sitting in section 1, just above the tunnel the players ran out of were members of Kmet’s former team, the Saint Viator Lions, and Head Coach Dave Archibald.
“He is doing so well on the field for the Irish,” Archibald said afterwards, “and he is also exemplifying uncommon effort, positivity, time-management and humility. He is an example to all Saint Viator students, no matter what their interests.”
Although this was the first time Fr. Hall had traveled to Notre Dame to see Kmet play, the two stay in regular contact via text and email. Their respect for each other goes way back. During Kmet’s years at Saint Viator — 2013-2017 — Fr. Hall coached special teams, where Kmet saw action as early as freshman year, before turning his attention to tight end. During those years, Kmet helped lead the team to a pair of state playoff appearances.
This year for the Irish, Kmet is having a banner season, having caught 29 passes for 327 yards and five touchdowns. Combined with his fellow tight end, Tommy Tremble, they have tied the single season school record of touchdown receptions by Fighting Irish tight ends, set in 2013, with two games to go.
While he didn’t catch a pass against Navy, he did make some key blocks that sprung some of his teammates for big yardage. And his former coach took note.
“He’s making some big blocks,” Fr. Hall said with a smile. “He’s opening up the whole side of the field.”
Indeed, the Irish went on to defeat the Midshipmen 52-20, improving to 8-2 on the season and extending their home winning streak to 17. But for one star player, the value of seeing his former coach there to cheer him on was, well, priceless.