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Notre Dame Football

Fighting Irish LG Pat Coogan Always Believed in Himself

September 8, 2023

Nine months ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that former blue-chip recruit Billy Schrauth would become Notre Dame’s starting left guard. 

Pat Coogan never lost faith in himself, especially once starting offensive guards Jarrett Patterson and Josh Lugg declared for the 2023 NFL Draft.

“I knew there were two spots at right and left guard,” Coogan said, “so in January, I believed in myself.”

Coogan was hobbled his freshman year due to a torn right meniscus and spent the 2022 season as a backup center on the roster, playing three snaps in a 44-0 Fighting Irish victory over Boston College.

Coach Marcus Freeman and his staff are big proponents of fostering competition, so he had Coogan moonlight at left guard heading into spring ball. 

After the 2023 Blue-Gold Game, Schrauth appeared to be in pole position, but Coogan kept grinding. He may have lacked Scharuth’s size and athleticism, so he focused on increasing his strength to better hold up at the point of attack. 

“It starts in the weight room. I knew I needed to get stronger, so I put a big emphasis on that. I had a really good offseason program from January, February and March. Then spring ball was a great process, too. I played both center and guard. 

“That was great for me. I got better at both positions going into there. Getting stronger was a huge emphasis in the offseason. Summer rolled around and that continued. I put in two really good offseasons in the winter and in the summer.” 

Early in fall camp, Coogan earned more and more reps with the first-team offensive line, proving to be the more consistent and technically sound player. 

“I consider myself a technician. I take pride in my pad level,” Coogan said. “I do good things with that. I played center here for two years, so I take pride in knowing what every one of us is doing on every play whether that’s right tackle, right guard, center, left tackle.”

After three weeks, it became clear he’d be Notre Dame’s starting left guard. 

“Always and forever, it’s performance-based in everything we do,” offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said. “Coogs has done a great job of getting himself there. He’s a very physical player, very conscientious in the way he approaches the game. He’s detail-oriented. All the things you want to use in describing a guy.”

A native of Chicago, Coogan grew up in a pro-Notre Dame area. He attended Marist, a private Catholic high school.

“It’s been a dream come true, honestly,” Coogan said. “Coming from where I am from, there’s a lot of passion and a lot of pride for Notre Dame football. The first game I came to as a fan was in [2015] against Texas when they won [38-3]. It’s been a great process. It took a lot of hard work and obviously, it’s paid off now.”

He made his first career start in Notre Dame’s 42-3 rout of Navy in the season opener in Dublin, Ireland, a monumental moment for someone who grew up in an Irish Catholic household.

It’s early, but he’s already playing like someone with more than two games of experience.

“He’s made up for it in effort, learning what to do, and being exactly where Coach Rudolph wants him to be,” Parker said. “That’s what Coogs has done. All that I just said has developed confidence from his teammates and his O-Line—certainly us as coaches—and he’s put himself playing at a high level.”

It helps that he’s lines up between fifth-year center Zeke Correll and All-American left tackle Joe Alt.

“I’m surrounded by some unbelievable teammates, so playing next to them is pretty dang easy too, especially Joe and Zeke. They make life a whole lot easier. They help me out a lot.” 

Of course, Saturday’s road contest at North Carolina State will pose a new challenge after playing in front of two Notre Dame-friendly crowds to open the season. 

The Wolfpack have won 16 of their last 17 games at home. Coogan will likely have to use a silent count for the first time in his young career. 

“It’s going to be a difficult experience. NC State is an unbelievable opponent,” Coogan said. “I know they pose a lot of challenges that we’re going to be ready for. Getting the opportunity to travel during my freshman and sophomore years was big. I know what those environments sound like. I know what the guys are saying on the sidelines of how the communication has to be. 

“Whether it was Virginia Tech my freshman year or Florida State my freshman year or the big games last year, I’ve been in that experience. Obviously, playing is going to be different, but I’m confident in my ability and confident in my teammates for sure.” 

Coogan isn’t taking anything for granted as he heads into his third game as a starter. 

Schrauth is still nipping at his heels, so Coogan can’t afford to take a snap off. He’s always fighting and will continue to believe in himself.

“Obviously, I felt like I earned it every day, and I have to earn it every day still,” Coogan said.  “The process, I believe, is never over. I have to go out there and earn it on the practice field and on the game field every single day, every single snap. Whether that’s going against the scout team or going against Rylie (Mills), it doesn’t really matter. I have to go do my job and win those reps.”

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