Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Robert Hainsey: "It was definitely different"

December 24, 2017

It’s rare for a true freshman to break into an offensive line rotation, but even more unusual at Notre Dame, especially under Harry Hiestand. 

Right tackle Robert Hainsey did just that in 2017, as he split reps with sophomore Tommy Kraemer the entire year. 

“It was definitely different,” Hainsey said of the rotation. “I came in during the spring. I got to work with Mike (McGlinchey), Q (Quenton Nelson) and the rest of the offensive line. Tommy and I worked together and made each other better. 

“To come in and play as a true freshman, it’s something I will remember for a while. I worked really hard to do it. Tommy and I helped each other a lot, and we think it worked out the best way it could have for us.” 

Kraemer entered the program as a road grader, while Hainsey was known for his finesse. The combo worked well for the Irish as they alternated almost every series throughout the year. 

“Rotating, it’s not typical and very different, but we think we had strengths that fit together,” explained Hainsey. “Throughout that process, we both made each other better. I know if he’s working on something, I’ll make it a point to work on it, and he’ll do the same, so we don’t make the same mistake. 

“We make it a point to work on the things we both need.” 

The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder is quick to give credit to the Notre Dame coaching staff as they provided Hainsey the confidence to make the transition from high school to college over the last year.

“I credit everything to coach Hiestand, Mike and Q,” stated Hainsey. “They have been a huge help to me. Coach (Matt) Balis and the rest of the strength staff too. Coach (Brian) Kelly and coach (Chip) Long believed in me and believed I could do it. 

“Once I knew they believed in me, I knew I believed in myself. Having the staff behind me, I knew I could go play football like I knew I could play.” 

Right guard Alex Bars was also a critical factor in the acceleration of Hainsey’s game. 

Bars played right tackle in 2016 and was able to give pointers and keep both players spirits high during the season. 

“Alex has been a great help,” Hainsey explained. “He tells us everything we need to know. He’ll make the calls if we don’t see them or make them before us. If we have a question, we can ask him, and he’s always there to help. 

“He always gives us tips on things he’s done or what coach Hiestand told him last season.” 

Hainsey credits his coaching at IMG Academy, where he spent his final two seasons of high school when it comes to pass protection. The intense competition at IMG didn’t hurt, but Hainsey also believes The Opening helped blossom his game.  

“It came pretty naturally to me,” Hainsey said of his pass blocking. “It was something I felt like I excelled at in high school. I’ve been to camps and learned a lot. I took those things I have learned and taught them to myself to make them work. 

“As soon as I got here, I was working with coach Hiestand. He changed a lot and put me in a position to be the best I could be. Coach Hiestand has done a lot for me in all my techniques.” 

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