Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Mustipher: This Team Is Full Of Leadership

January 4, 2019

It was an emotional setting inside the Dallas Cowboys locker room following Notre Dame’s 30-3 loss to Clemson on Saturday night in the Cotton Bowl. 

Captains Sam Mustipher and Drue Tranquill were in tears as they had played their last game in the blue and gold, while Alohi Gilman sat in a corner by himself.

For Mustipher, it was an end of an era as a three-year starter at center. The 6-foot-2, 306-pounder led the Irish from 4-8 to the College Football Playoff in just two years and he made sure to let his guys on the offensive line know Saturday’s performance wasn’t good enough as he walked off the field for the final time. 

“Coming off the field, I told them to focus up and this is their team now,” stated Mustipher. “I’m not going to be here. (Alex) Bars isn’t going to be here. Logan Plantz, I don’t think he’ll be here. I told them this is our team and we brought them as far as we could. We didn’t get the job done and it’s their time to get the job done.” 

The leadership from Bars, Mustipher and Plantz will be missed greatly, but it’s a different situation compared to 2015 following Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl loss. 

In Mustipher’s eyes, leadership in 2019 won’t be a question as it was heading into the 2016 season. 

“That’s the crazy thing,” Mustipher said. “There isn’t just one guy. Team-wide, there isn’t one guy. This team is full of leadership and it’s a testament of how we’ve been recruiting. There are so many guys who come to mind. On the offensive line, all those guys are natural born leaders. It was a pleasure to play with all them.

“When you have a guy that’s more afraid of making a mistake to let you down than to screw up his own image - that’s huge.” 

When it comes to the offensive line, Mustipher knows there are more than a few names who can step into the spotlight and pick up right where he and Bars left off. 

“Trevor Ruhland, Aaron Banks, Robert Hainsey, Liam Eichenberg and Tommy Kraemer,” Mustipher stated. “All those guys have an opportunity to lead and to step into a leadership role. I believe they can all do that and be very successful.” 

As an emotional Mustipher sat in his chair, he didn’t hesitate when asked what the offense needed to do to win a playoff game.

“The next step is we can’t make mistakes on a big stage like this,” said Mustipher. “We got here and it wasn’t the goal to just get here. We made too many mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot too many times to be happy about this game. 

“They understand that.” 

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