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Notre Dame Football

Anything but Kurt: Hinish record-setting legacy an enduring one

November 19, 2021

The record, almost certainly, will not be broken.

It has taken extraordinary, unprecedented circumstances for Kurt Hinish to arrive at a rather distinguished spot in the annals of Notre Dame football.

Even Hinish is a bit surprised – after feeling months ago that maybe his position coach, Mike Elston, was ready to see Hinish depart.

“After the Alabama game, Coach Elston gave me a huge, and he said, 'It's been fun coaching you,'” Hinish recalled. “Me and him talked about it the week before the Alabama game.

“I said, 'Yeah, I'm prolly going to (return for a fifth season) and then he said goodbye. In my head I was like, 'Does he not want me to come back?'. We flew back, the day after the game, I called him that morning, I was like, 'Hey, Coach, do you not want me to come back?' and he was like no, no I just thought you were gonna leave and go to the NFL. I thought he was looking toward the future and I was thinking dang he really wanted to get rid of me.”

Instead, with his COVID-19 allowed super senior season, Hinish has closed in on 60 career games played for the Irish. Multiple former Irish players held the previous record of 52.

The Pittsburgh native rests at 58 as Notre Dame, No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, prepares to host Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon inside Notre Dame Stadium (2:30 p.m., NBC).

“It's cool,” said Hinish, who had a 10-tackle game this season against Navy and has 77 career stops from his spot along the Irish interior. “Not many people can say they broke a record at Notre Dame.

“I'm like a smartass, I always joke around, push everyone's button. I say (to teammates), 'Like how many records do you have?' just joking around.”

Hinish's career is certainly no laughing matter. Already a member of two Irish teams to earn selection into college football's Final Four, the slightly undersized Hinish – 6-foot-1-.75-inches, 300 pounds – has generated remarkable longevity at a position that takes a beating snap after snap.

Hinish credits both his training – and his water consumption as a youth.

“I don't get sick, I drank out of the hose when I was a kid,” Hinish said, then later added, “Well, to be honest with you, I've been pretty injury-free my whole life. Knock on wood. I attribute it to my dad and (Irish strength) Coach (Matt) Balis, even during the season he used to work me out a lot, and the theory was stronger muscles are more beating that you can take. Proved to be true.”

As long as he remains healthy – migraines kept him out of a pair of games this season, leaving Hinish “losing my mind” while missing the game against Wisconsin at Chicago’s Soldier Field – Hinish is on target to close his career with at least 61 appearances – 62 if Notre Dame gains selection into the CFP and wins its semifinal game.

Already a familiar name for Irish fans from Hinish's quintet of seasons, the name is going to linger inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Kurt's younger brother, Donovan, is a 2022 Notre Dame commitment.

"He brings an incredible mentality carrying the torch as a captain and a leader,” Brian Kelly said of Kurt Hinish. “He's vigilant in the standards we have set here – the high standards. He's going to be sorely missed as a captain, leader, a presence and personality. He's a no-nonsense guy. He's a throwback in a lot of ways.

"Donovan (Hinish) is going to be his own person, but that family lineage will keep on here at Notre Dame."

Still, Saturday is going to be an emotional day for the family. Kurt Hinish believes he knows how his family is going to handle the senior day moment.

“It will be exciting,” Hinish said. “My mom (Tawnie) is probably going to cry. I'm not a crier. I'm an emotional guy but I don't cry. My mom's probably going cry. My dad (Kurt) is going to be happy. It is what is, he don't show much emotion.”

Who knows? Hinish’s senior day moment, part of his record-breaking career, might be time for waterworks.

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