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Notre Dame Football

Captain's Talk with Robert Hainsey | Part I

April 10, 2020

Notre Dame's offensive line tradition isn't a secret. The Martin brothers, Ronnie Stanley, Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher, all led the Irish offense and now it's Robert Hainsey's turn. 

The Pittsburgh native was named a captain last fall, but Hainsey's leadership is being tested as the Irish and country battle the coronavirus. 

"It's interesting because it doesn't matter who you are, what you've done, or who you've led in the past," Hainsey told Irish Sports Daily. "No one has been through this. 

"We're all learning in general. Our coaches have been in a lot of contact with us and checking in to make sure everyone is alright. We have to remember what we're here for and why we're doing this stuff." 

Hainsey is a SWAT team captain and it's his job to make sure the team is staying on top of things while away from campus.

The NCAA forbids coaches from making anything mandatory and the staff can't watch workouts.

"I think we're doing the best we can with the workouts provided," explained Hainsey. "There are things that are competitive. The NCAA said nothing is mandatory. We have to check-in instead of the strength coaches. We can communicate numbers, but it's more on us than it is on them because they can't check as diligently." 

Notre Dame went 11-2 a year ago and very well could be in line for a College Football Playoff appearance. 

Hainsey knows this and has made sure each guy on the team is aware the work they do now will pay off later.

"When this all over, the work you do now is going to make a difference," stated Hainsey. "The biggest thing for me is with our individual SWAT teams and the offensive line is checking in and seeing what everyone is doing. I'm making sure everyone is on top of their stuff. We have a great group of guys where it's not really a problem where other places you might see more slacking. With the team we have and the guys we have, there is really no question that guys are working on their own." 

Head coach Brian Kelly also stated he doesn’t want the SWAT captains to feel they have to always look over their units.

“They've taken hold of it,” Kelly said. “We want it to be a positive experience. We don't want to put them in a position where they have to be big brother all the time. I mean that in a sense of them always knocking their guys. We want it to be a positive experience as well. We don't want them to have to feel every time they make a call to one of their SWAT team members that it's a negative situation. We want it to be a program builder.” 

Zoom has become a staple of daily life in college football. Coaches use it for meetings with the staff, players and recruits, but Notre Dame's players also use it to hold their own meetings. 

"A lot of it is just talking and shooting the shit or saying what's up," said Hainsey. "You get in there and you haven't seen them forever. You just miss everyone. I miss the team and being with the guys and working out together. It's nice to have some interaction and talk to see how everyone is doing. 

"It's pretty much a check-in and a quick reminder to make sure we're doing our workouts or filling out all the stuff we need to fill out. We want to keep our routine and keep busy. You don't want to get lazy, but that's not really a problem. I don't have any concerns with guys doing that because of who we are and the guys we have." 

Over the last few weeks, Notre Dame's SWAT captains have posted quick videos showing their unit working out. 

While Hainsey might not be a big video guy, he understands it does have some benefits. 

"If you don't want to post anything on Social Media or make a video about it - that's fine with me," Hainsey explained. "That's not always my first thought, but in our group chats, I always ask for videos just for each other. You get to see other guys doing what they're doing. You see guys in their garages or in the middle of nowhere doing whatever. It's kind of funny and it reminds you that everyone else is working, so you have to be doing your part as well." 

The challenge for Notre Dame's offensive line isn't workouts, but the lack of on-field work. Spring football is crucial for building rapport and cohesiveness, which teams aren't getting this year.

"It's weird, but we have meetings with the coaches where we can watch film and stuff," stated Hainsey. "There really isn't much you can do unless you're with someone you can do drills with, but you're not getting live reps or team reps where all five of us are out there. 

"That's one of our main strengths. When we do come back from all this - we're so close that we'll be able to get right back into it and start rolling. It shouldn't be too hard for us to get back into it."

Hainsey doesn't know when the Irish will be allowed back on campus, but he does know it will be a special moment when it happens. 

"I'm just excited to get back with everyone," said Hainsey. "I know when we get back, everyone is going to be so anxious to get to work whenever that may be. It will be a very exciting time." 

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