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Notre Dame Football

Captain's Talk with Robert Hainsey | Part II

April 13, 2020

A captain at Notre Dame isn't something to be held lightly and it's an honor to continue the legacy of a rich football tradition. 

There have been some who haven't lived up to higher standard, but offensive lineman Robert Hainsey isn't one of those. 

Hainsey has learned from some of Notre Dame's great leaders and has formulated his own leadership style. It's one that is centered around caring and making sure others are excelling on the football field, while also going above and beyond. 

A great example of this was last fall. Hainsey had just had surgery on his fractured ankle and was FaceTiming his offensive line from his bed. 

“I was up in the hotel bed right after my surgery when I couldn't move," Hainsey recalled to Irish Sports Daily. "I was so incredibly bored not being able to do anything and so frustrated not being out there. 

"Lugg had just gotten out there and he was adjusting. I knew Quinn Carroll was at practice and he couldn't practice. I told him to get me on the phone, so I could at least watch. He was filming them and I was shooting him coaching points for him to tell them when they came off."

Sure, he admitted he might have been a little bored, but it's also how much Hainsey cares about his team. 

The Pittsburgh native saw great leaders before him and felt it was on him to make Notre Dame better despite being injured.

When I first got there - Mike (McGlinchey), Q (Quenton Nelson), Sam (Mustipher) and (Alex) Bars were all teaching me," explained Hainsey. "Then you had guys coming back like the (Nick/Zack) Martins and Ronnie (Stanley). It showed me how much it means to everyone. I think it means the same amount to me.

"I just had to do whatever I could in some capacity to try to help the unit. When I was able to finally get out there, Tommy and I were coaching the guys as much as we could to the best of our ability. That's all we could do at the time."

Rick Kimball/ISD
Del Alexander, Tommy Kraemer and Robert Hainsey

Hainsey had never dealt with an injury of that magnitude before, so it was an adjustment. The positive is Hainsey understands what Dillan Gibbons and others are going through, which can allow him to lead and push more of his peers. 

"Specifically to Dillan, he loves Notre Dame as much as anyone," stated Hainsey. "I know he'll do anything for the team. Whenever he gets back, I know he's going to come with the same mindset, energy and focus.

"Before last year, I really hadn't been through it, but now I know how it feels. I have a little more insight. I can tell him to keep going and be ready when he gets back out there. Take precautions and don't rush it, but it's hard not to when you're waiting and waiting to play ball. 

"Hopefully, with this time off, he can keep healing and by the time we get back, we can do more with him." 

Now, not all injured players are going to FaceTime reps and coach players up, but Hainsey knows they can still play a crucial part to the team while healing. 

"For the guys like that, you tell them we love him and miss him," said Hainsey. "We need him out there, but do what you have to do to help the team now. You can't do everything at once. If you literally can't be out there, there is something you can be doing. You can watch the guys, help the graduate assistants with cards, or any little thing to help." 

Speaking of graduate assistants, former Notre Dame offensive lineman Chris Watt is back in South Bend to work with the offensive line. 

Watt isn't a stranger to members of the offensive line, but it's also evident his input has been taken well since his arrival. 

"Watt is awesome," Hainsey stated. "I've known him for a little bit before he came in as a GA. He's been such a help. He gets it and knows offensive line. He knows how to play football and played at the highest level. Insight like that, you can't get from anyone. 

"I love all of our GA's. They love and know football. They do it 24-7. When I was in South Bend, Dean Petzing, our former offensive line GA, who is now with the tight ends, he lives near me, so I would go over to his house and watch film on the computer. They are always willing to help and Watt has been no different." 

If Notre Dame makes a College Football Playoff run in 2020, it will hinge on the offensive line. 

It's a group that has typically been quiet about goals, but Hainsey provided a small look into their motivation.

"I think something that is always in the back of our mind is an acronym: NDYJMA. It stands for Notre Dame, You, Joe Moore Award. The No. 1 thing is to help Notre Dame win any time you step on the field or get in the weight room. You're doing it to help Notre Dame win. 

"The next thing is you're going to become the best offensive linemen you can be. By putting in the extra time, it's going to make you the best offensive lineman as an individual. 

"As a collective unit, we're coming together to see through one set of eyes and be on the same page. Just playing with the effort and tenacity that we have and together, that's what will win us the Joe Moore Award.

"Those are always our long-term goals in addition to winning a National Championship. That's what I always see and write on everything. I always keep it in the back of mind as a reminder of why we're doing this stuff." 

Captain's Talk with Robert Hainsey | Part I

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