'Everything happens for a reason,' Notre Dame tight end Kevin Bauman says

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune
Notre Dame’s Kevin Bauman (84) warms up before the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

SOUTH BEND – On his sixth snap of last year’s season opener at Florida State, Kevin Bauman’s career took a detour.

It’s to his credit that the redshirt sophomore tight end didn’t let that fractured left fibula derail his progress completely, but his 2021 season was limited to 39 total snaps, nearly half of those on special teams for Notre Dame.

“Obviously, that was tough, going down in the first game, but I believe everything happens for a reason,” Bauman said. “I took that opportunity to really work on the mental side of things.”

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Notre Dame tight end Kevin Bauman (84) during a Notre Dame spring football practice on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in South Bend.

Rather than sulk, Bauman ramped up his attention to detail.

“I know I wasn’t able to physically be on the field,” he said, “but staying engaged mentally, taking those mental reps on the field, watching the film, helping guys read things throughout practice, feels like it aided in the recovery process.”

Projected as the primary backup to All-America candidate Michael Mayer, Bauman prides himself on his full grasp of the position. The former four-star recruit from Red Bank, N.J., now 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds, has impressed new position coach Gerad Parker.

“Kevin has stayed healthy,” Parker said. “He’s really progressed and grown because he hasn’t played a lot of football at this level. He’s really grown with his hand placement, hat placement, block gain. He’s become a route runner and learned some things about his body.”

It was only after his body betrayed him down in Tallahassee, Fla., that Bauman realized the leg injury actually happened in practice leading up to the opener.

“It was during a kickoff return drill, and I kind of got clipped,” Bauman said. “I kept going the next few days at practice, not knowing it was broken. But then in the game, I got hit there and it kind of went all the way. After that I knew something was obviously really wrong.”

The actual contact against the Seminoles was more of a glancing blow.

“That was the crazy thing,” Bauman said. “I got a little bump right on the side of my leg. I’m thinking, ‘For a little bump like that, I definitely shouldn’t be feeling that much pain.’ Unfortunately, I guess from whatever happened at practice, it just completed that.”

With just two career pass receptions, Bauman is eager to expand his contributions. Whatever success he enjoys from here forward can be traced to his attitude from the moment he boarded the team bus after that overtime win.

“I knew I was going to get back,” Bauman said. “I remember stepping on the bus and (team staffers) saying, ‘All right. We’ve got to get surgery scheduled. Let’s do this.’ That’s kind of how it went. My thought process was, ‘I’m going to attack rehab. I’m going to get through this.’ “

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.