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Photo by Jim & Jen Talich
Notre Dame Football

Irish Walk-On Luke Talich: Forgoing PAC-12 Offers for “Dream" School

January 17, 2023

The Notre Dame football program attracts prospects from across the United States.

Over the last five recruiting cycles, the Fighting Irish signed players from 30 states, Washington D.C., Canada and Germany. Even with Notre Dame's national appeal, a few areas are often left off the recruiting trail. 

The Irish and the majority of the college football world overlooks Wyoming. The state hasn’t produced a four-star prospect in the 247Sports era. Steve Dover, a reserve halfback in the late 1970s, represents the most notable player from the cowboy state to suit up for the Irish in the last 50 years.

Yet there’s a chance Notre Dame’s staff unearthed a future gem from the Cowboy State in walk-on athlete Luke Talich. He’s a 6-foot-3 and 190-pound athlete with a personal best 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash. 

Luke Talich hails from Cody, Wyoming, a 10,000-person town located an hour’s drive east of Yellowstone National Park. For Cody High School, he played quarterback and safety. He led the Broncs to two state titles, garnered All-State honors as a sophomore, junior and senior. In 2022, he became the class 3A West Defensive Player of the Year.  

He’s also a three-star prospect who garnered scholarship offers from Oregon State, Utah –and Wyoming, which came with strong family connections. It’s where his older brother, Nic Talich, currently plays and his father, Jim Talich, starred as a linebacker for the Cowboys in the 1990s.

Today this day, Jim Talich is considered one of the program’s all-time greats with 440 career tackles.

However, when it came time to make a decision in December, Luke Talich bet on himself and committed to Notre Dame as a preferred walk-on. 

“I thought I can go to these other schools and have a really successful collegiate career,” Luke Talich said. “I know I would have a lot of fun. They're a great fit for me, but I thought in the back of my mind, I would always regret not giving Notre Dame a shot.”

A Life-Long Fan

There are few connections between Notre Dame and Cody. The most notable might be Fr. Theodore Hesburgh's longtime friendship with former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, who lives in Cody. 

But why did Luke Talich grow up a Notre Dame fan? His mother, Jen, who played volleyball at Montana State, thinks her son was drawn to the gold helmets on TV. His dad, Jim, believes their Catholic faith sparked his interest in Fighting Irish football. Regardless of the reason, Luke Talich fell in love with Notre Dame despite little connection to the university. 

He’s the second oldest of five siblings. Like many kids in large families,  he grew up sharing a bedroom but when his parents finished the home's basement, he received his own room.  When they asked him how he’d like to decorate it, Luke Talich knew just want he wanted.

“I told them ‘I want to paint it blue and gold for the Cody Broncs and blue and gold for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish,’” he said.

Talich also picked out a couple of Notre Dame Fatheads to stick on his wall and hung a yellow “Play Like A Champion Today” sign above his door. 

From Wyoming to South Bend

When Luke Talich began to consider colleges, his parents asked him where he’d like to go. 

“My parents knew that Notre Dame was always a dream of mine,” Luke Talich said, “so they went out of their way and took me to a camp because Notre Dame was never going to come out and recruit in Wyoming. We figured if I wanted to have a chance, then I would have to go to them.”

He attended Irish Invasion in early June 2022 and tested well, but the coaching staff failed to take notice at first. The Talich Family used the rest of the trip as a chance to explore. 

“It seemed like we had the entire campus to ourselves,” Jim Talich said. “It's really kind of magical for us because we'd never been there. We're huge Catholics. It was a huge bucket list item for us. We'd heard about all the hitlist places to go and so we had the run-of-the-mill of the campus. It was awesome.”

After the camp, Jim Talich reached out to Notre Dame recruiting analyst Caleb Davis, who was impressed with Luke’s camp performance and the relationship grew from there.

By the fall, contact with safeties coach Chris O’Leary and coach Marcus Freeman ramped up. 

In November, Luke Talich returned to South Bend with his parents for an unofficial visit. They watched the Irish dismantle Boston College 44-0 in a snow-covered Notre Dame Stadium, attended mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and spent time around the team and the coaching staff. 

“We were able to spend some time with the coaching staff,” Jim Talich said. “We didn't actually fly out till Monday, so we were able to spend the rest of the day on Sunday with a team. They were actually practicing for USC. We spent the day with them and got to see the ins and outs of what was going on with their daily life on Sunday.”

A month later, he committed to Notre Dame as a preferred walk-on. Now his goal is to earn a scholarship via a road that’s often less traveled for someone in his position. 

“I might as well give it a shot. If it doesn't work out, then it doesn't, and that's okay,” Luke Talich said. “I'll be at peace with it. At least I’ll know that I gave it my best.”

Onward Notre Dame

With senior football complete, Luke Talich is in basketball season. In the spring, he will run track for the Broncs with his eye on winning state in the 100 and 200-meter dash after finishing as the runner-up in both events last spring. To do so, he’ll likely need to top a personal best of 10.8 seconds in the 100-meter.

The Irish staff wants Talich at safety when he enrolls in the summer, but given his size, speed and athleticism, he could be an asset at linebacker down the road. 

“It just really depends on what my body does,” Luke Talich said. “If I gain 20, 30 pounds right away, then maybe I do grow into the linebacker position. It makes sense to start me off at safety. If you know the defense from the safety position, then it's easier to transition to a linebacker.”

There’s a path for him to contribute no matter which position he ends up playing.

Linebackers JD Bertrand, Marist Liufau and Jack Kiser will be graduate students next fall and could move on from the program at the semester’s end. Safeties Thomas Harper and DJ Brown will use their final seasons of eligibility in 2023, and the depth at the position is rather thin behind them due to recruiting misses in each of the last few cycles. 

“They have five guys between the safety and linebacker room leaving after the first semester next year,” Luke Talich said. “They think that a scholarship will open up. That's kind of their plan. Obviously, I have to show up and work really hard and get on some special teams, hopefully.”

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