Notre Dame DB Matthias Farley's honesty deserves praise

COMMENTARY

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — In the world of sports media, candid can be hard to come by.

We operate in an industry where “coach speak” dominates the conversation, where student-athletes are drilled on how best to answer questions, where genuine emotion is suffocated under layers of shoulder pads and testosterone.

It’s an unlikely place to find an honest answer, but every once in a while, we’re able to scrape away the minutiae and arrive at something real.

On Thursday, Matthias Farley provided that.

Nearly a week later, I still find myself thinking about the graduate student defensive back’s interview, and playing back the video stashed in the bowels of NDInsider.com. The video is magnetic, because it’s true. It’s vulnerable. It’s human.

That also makes it rare.

A few minutes after unexpectedly being named a captain in his final season, Farley ambled into the Isban Auditorium of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and found a seat in the front row. Inevitably, he was met by a massive crowd, as hoards of digital recorders and video cameras descended on the fifth-year player, hungry for a usable sound bite.

And for a while, it went how it always goes. Farley was asked about his relationship with younger players, and he gave an appropriate answer. He was drilled about the importance of special teams, and he reiterated that, yes, special teams are very important.

But roughly five minutes into the interview, the tone suddenly changed.

“Matthias, have you called your parents or brothers, or anyone yet, to share the news with anyone?” asked Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson of the captain nod.

“My brother Nathan was the reason that I started playing football, because he got hurt,” Farley started to explain, sporting a green Irish t-shirt and a blue Under Armour cap pulled over his thick brown locks. “So I called him.”

And that was it. He broke down. Engulfed by swarms of media, he laid his head in his hands and wept.

This wasn’t a sign of weakness, but a show of strength.

After a few moments, Farley apologized (though he didn’t need to), and explained that his brother Nathan had been forced to retire from football after a concussion revealed a brain tumor in the back of the Coastal Carolina tight end’s skull in 2005. Farley, who had played soccer throughout his first two seasons at Christian High School, started playing football for Nathan.

Without Nathan, he probably wouldn’t be here.

After being named one of five team captains at the end of Thursday’s practice, Farley called his brother first. “He just yelled a lot,” Farley said. “He started crying, I started crying. He’s the reason I started playing football.”

Farley went on to call the captain selection the greatest honor of his life, and his choice to come to Notre Dame the greatest decision he ever made. In a sport where so many players feel entitled to the world and everything in it, having been told since birth they were destined for bigger and better things, Farley was overcome with gratitude.

Roughly 20 minutes after the interview started, Matthias Farley made his exit, bulky Showtime cameras tailing him every step of the way.

Thank you, Matthias, for your honesty. Out walked a captain in every sense of the word.

Notre Dame’s Matthias Farley pumps up the crowd during the Notre Dame-Florida State NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN