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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 07, 2018 1:00 am

Carroll grad still a captain for Irish

Tranquill given title before first practice

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

When the Notre Dame football met during the early hours of Tuesday morning before their inaugural practice of the spring, the first order of business was the announcement of captains.

Fort Wayne native and former Carroll linebacker Drue Tranquill was one of those selected for the second straight year. The rising fifth-year senior was joined by center Sam Mustipher and punter Tyler Newsome as team leaders.

“Being elected captain, last year and this year, is the biggest honor of my life,” said Tranquill, who became just the 23rd two-time captain in Notre Dame history. “To be viewed from your teammates like that speaks a lot and it humbles me. With that obviously comes a lot of responsibility and I saw that last year.”

In his final season with the Irish, Tranquill will switch to the “Buck” position – a defensive end-linebacker hybrid – which he's more likely to play in the NFL. Despite the position switch and his new role as one of the team's elder statesmen, the mechanical engineering major said his leadership style won't change much in his second year as captain.

“My leadership style is pretty relational,” said Tranquill, who wore a hoodie with the phrase “Trust Jesus” on it to speak with the media. “I like to get to know to guys one-on-one. I'm a vocal guy on the field, but I'm not, per se, a guy that's going to get in your face.”

As a captain last year, Tranquill was an obvious choice for the 2018 season. Mustipher was another obvious choice. The center is the leader of an offensive line that will undergo major changes this season after losing All-Americans Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey to the NFL. Mustipher is a rising senior who has started 25 consecutive games over the last two seasons.

“(I told the team) this was not a popularity contest and this is not about production,” coach Brian Kelly said of the captaincy elections. “This is about those guys you don't want to let down. Who's a guy you don't want to let down? (Mustipher)'s a guy they don't want to let down.”

Newsome was a much less obvious choice than his two fellow captains. Kelly said the punter garnered votes from 51 percent of the team in becoming the first punter to be named a captain at Notre Dame since the late Blair Kiel in 1983. The difference is that Kiel also played quarterback.

The rising fifth-year senior will be entering his fourth year as the starting punter, but he said he's always thought of himself as a football player first and a specialist second. His fellow captains lauded the energy he brings on a daily basis.

“I knew that coming into Notre Dame, I was only going to have a very limited time here,” Newsome said. “I know that each morning I wake up there are millions of people that would love to be in my shoes for one morning. So I'd be a fool to let one morning go by and pass it up.

“I try to be a very consistent guy and bring the same amount of energy every single day to everything, because tomorrow's not guaranteed.”

Kelly said he'll name a fourth captain at the end of the spring practice schedule. There was a “logjam” at the fourth spot, with a handful of players receiving similar numbers of votes, according to the coach. He wants those who believe they were in the running to showcase their leadership skills before another vote in late April.

“My message this year has been about peer accountability,” Kelly said. “Last year I made the decisions (about captains). ... This has clearly been a path of empowering our football team to take this over.”