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Notre Dame Football

Blinders On for Sam Hartman Ahead of First Big Game at Notre Dame

September 19, 2023

Sam Hartman is one of college football’s most experienced players, but he’s also experienced nine months of new. 

New school. New teammates. New coaches (two new OCs). New colors. New practice structure. New plays. 

The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder’s first game for Notre Dame was in Dublin, Ireland, so that counts as new. Hartman’s first home game was a new experience. He may or may not admit it, but walking out of the Basilica after mass to a sea of fans was new as that doesn’t happen at Wake Forest. 

This week will be another new. Hartman’s first big game at Notre Dame as No. 6 Ohio State comes to South Bend. 

Yes, Hartman has played in big games, including as a true freshman when Notre Dame went to Winston-Salem and everyone left the stadium with respect for the Wake Forest freshman quarterback as he took a beating and kept coming back for more. 

Saturday will be different and Hartman acknowledges it. 

“Yeah, it’s a big game,” said Hartman. College Game Day, whatever you want to call it. I think it’s a huge opportunity for us as a program and as a team to go out there and show what we got. Obviously a really challenging opponent historically. A great opponent, a great football program and another, like ourselves, great football university.

“It’s a classic. Two football greats that growing up, you think about and think of those games, Ohio State and all the other big ones, where you’re like, it would be a cool game to play in. It’s exciting. It is a big game. I think to shy away from that is foolish, but I think it’s going to be like every week, it’s about us executing at the highest level and like Coach Freeman already probably said, reaching our full potential.”

Hartman, who grew up a Michigan fan, doesn’t shy away from spotlight, but it’s also something he deflects at almost every turn. 

Yet, this game is exactly why Notre Dame recruited Hartman. The Irish needed a quarterback who could get them over the hump of big games. Through four games, Hartman looks like that guy, but he also has to remain himself and not try to do too much in what will be an atmosphere unlike the other 52 games he’s played in. 

“It’s always about doing my job as the best I can do and the plays will come when they need to be,” explained Hartman. “It’s a lot of trust. The trust and believe that everyone around me is doing their job, which they’ve been doing all year and we’ve been doing since the spring. It’s an exciting opportunity to go out as a team and play a complete game.”

That said, Hartman will surely lean on those 52 games of experience on Saturday night. Experience is priceless in college football and it’s an advantage Hartman has over Ohio State’s Kyle McCord. 

“Experience is experience, but every play you play is going to be different than the last,” Hartman stated. “It’s just going to be about trusting the guys around me and knowing that the support group around me is really, really talented and they believe in me and I believe in them.”

The trust Hartman speaks of has been built in those new experiences since he arrived in January. It was the early morning workouts, extra time on the practice field and simply spending time together in The Gug. 

“I think you feel the same emotions because you want to succeed, you want to play well and I think that’s like everyone in this room,” Hartman explained. “If you have a big important deadline to hit, you feel the nerves, excitement or whatever you feel.

“A lot of it is just the want to be the best and have success and prove people right or wrong in whatever regard. I think a lot of it revolves around the confidence I have walking in the Gug with the people that are around me, starting with Coach Freeman down to the very bottom. That’s where I find it, so that’s what I rely on.” 

Freeman was confident in his quarterback and didn’t hesitate to list a few reasons why Hartman is ready for this moment. 

“He’s played in big games and big moments,” said Freeman. “Sam Hartman knows this is about him going out there and going through his checklist and executing the things he needs to go through to have success. When you haven’t done that, I’m sure it’s a lot more difficult. Obviously, I feel great having a quarterback that’s had some of that big-game experience and college football experience that Sam has had.”

There will be distractions all week with College Game Day and the Pat McAfee Show coming to campus, along with a thousand other things, but Hartman has a plan of action and it starts with drowning out the noise.

“We’re going to try and keep our blinders on as much as we can and understand that it’s going to be one play, one life.”

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