Noie: Notre Dame tight end Nic Weishar just a good dude

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

It just kind of happens.

There’s no reason a fifth-year guy who’s been around the Notre Dame football program for as long as tight end Nic Weishar has to be anxious or intimidated or nervous about playing a game. This game. No reason to feel additional pressure to go do his job.

But something still happens.

It has ever since Weishar can remember, since grade school when catching passes and making blocks and scoring touchdowns didn’t matter as much as it does now for him and the eighth-ranked Irish (3-0). Football then was less about doing a job and more about having fun with his brothers and his buddies in south-suburban Chicago. Just running around pretending to be NFL guys doing NFL stuff. Having a good time and playing a game.

Yet even then, it happened.

Especially prior to practice, Weishar would feel his stomach doing some serious stuff. It wasn’t like he’d eat a crush of candy before games when he was a kid, or stayed out late with his teammates when he hit high school, where he set state records for receptions (252) and yards (3,238). When it came time to work, Weishar always was ready to work. But only after he did something.

He always had to, um, well, puke. Heave. Hurl. Vomit. Toss his cookies. It was as routine as buckling his chinstrap. Before he could go and play tight end, he had to lose his lunch. Only after that could he go do what he needed to do.

“I’ve always kind of been a guy that throws up,” Weishar said with a smile earlier this week. “That’s a fun fact about me, I guess.”

During preseason summer camp, it happened on any day that ended in “y.” What about the regular season? Say, a mid-week workout for an undefeated team? A guy coming off a big game the previous weekend? Yep, Weishar threw up Wednesday, then went about his business.

“It’s no big deal,” he said. “You just let it all out. It’s all good.”

Why Weishar let slip one of his football secrets speaks to this week’s game against Wake Forest. Following three straight wins at home, where Weishar said Notre Dame Stadium was as loud as he’s ever heard it, it’s time for the Irish to see how their game travels. Notre Dame heads Friday for North Carolina and the season’s first road game.

“Playing at home is great, but I’ve always been someone who loves to go see other stadiums,” said Weishar, who made his first career start in a place (Clemson) that took his breath away. “We’re really excited.”

When the Irish travel, Weishar follows a routine that he’s kept throughout his collegiate career. He has to sit next to offensive lineman Alex Bars on the bus. It’s tradition. The two will talk, laugh, or just remain silent. Day of the game, whether the Irish are in the team hotel having one meal or two, Weishar will eat the same meal every single time before every single game in every single road city — some pasta, a little salad and a piece of steak. All small portions for someone who goes 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds. Too much food and you know what he’ll end up doing right before kickoff.

“I don’t eat much before,” he said. “After games, I eat a lot.”

Like following Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt when Weishar and the tight ends worked up quite the appetite. With sophomore Cole Kmet down with a high ankle sprain, all three available tight ends did stuff. Sophomore Brock Wright caught his first career pass. Senior Alize Mack had what Brian Kelly deemed the best game of his career.

Weishar also was a factor. He caught two passes for four yards. That included his third career touchdown. It was a good win for the Irish and a good day for the tight ends.

For Weishar, currently No. 2 on the depth chart, it can’t get any better than that.

“That’s what we want,” he said. “We want to be the room that makes big plays when we’re called upon. That’s what we believe we’re poised to do and can do when we’re asked to do it.”

Still the same

There’s a photo floating around the social media stratosphere somewhere on Facebook or Instagram or Myspace or Snapchat or some other avenue. It was taken seemingly another lifetime ago when Weishar was a freshman at Notre Dame. Taken in the backseat of a car, the photo shows Weishar and three teammates who would become his closest friends — fifth year punter Tyler Newsome, one of his roommates, and former teammates Greer Martini and Quenton Nelson. The group had known each other for maybe two weeks during their first summer school session on campus. They were headed to a local restaurant to knock down some chicken wings. They were having fun, and man, Newsome said, they were so young. So different. Weishar didn’t have that 1970s movie-star mustache that he grew during camp or the five-o’clock shadow that he currently sports. He was a kid.

A lot has changed since, but not for Weishar. Newsome still remembers what Weishar was like. A stand-up dude and a really good teammate.

“He’s a guy you’d want in your fox hole,” Newsome said. “Through thick and thin, he’ll be there for you. Just a great guy.”

Newsome echoes a sentiment likely felt up and down and around the program. Young guys say it. Old guys say it. Assistant coaches say it. Even the head coach says it. Following Weishar’s two-yard touchdown catch against Vanderbilt, Kelly talked about what the guy means to the team. Everything he does seems to get everyone a little more juiced. When Weishar talks, people listen. People care. When he succeeds, it seems like everyone celebrates a little more. Celebrates the play and the player.

“When he makes plays, it sends a real positive feeling among our football team,” Kelly said. “He really has a heartbeat for our football team.”

How can someone who’s not one of the four team captains be considered a captain? The guys who are — Bars, center Sam Mustipher, Newsome and linebacker Drue Tranquill — carry serious weight in the locker room. On the practice field. But no more than Weishar, who has a ‘c’ at the end of his name but not on his game jersey.

When Kelly mentions Weishar and heartbeat in the same sentence, that’s powerful.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Weishar, who has 17 catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns in 40 career games. “I’ve been here for five years and have worked hard to build relationships with everybody in this program.”

Still, being a respected voice doesn’t just happen. It takes someone special doing special stuff when nobody else is watching to become that kind of guy. The kind of guy that stays steady, sticks to a standard and makes sure everyone is right there with him. Weishar watched how guys like Matthias Farley and Nick Martin and Joe Schmidt led when he was younger. He borrowed some of their stuff to be who he is now.

Who is he? A good teammate. A good guy. Win or lose.

“It’s just showing everybody you care,” he said. “That’s just the way that I was raised, just being a nice person. That’s something I don’t have to try hard to do, but people seem to latch on to that and like that.”

That makes it easy to root for guys like Weishar to make big catches in big moments like he did Saturday two plays before his third career touchdown. Then with the score, it was the same play Notre Dame ran last year with Ian Book at quarterback against Wake Forest. Weishar caught it then. He caught it last week, again from Book. The Irish celebrate every score, but when it happens with Weishar, there just seems like there’s more to celebrate.

“You’ve got a guy who cares so much about the team and the team cares about him,” Newsome said. “He does the right things. He doesn’t stray.

“You know what you’re going to get. He’s Weish.”

Notre Dame tight end Nic Weishar is ready to see how the eighth-ranked Irish respond to their first road game this weekend against Wake Forest.
Notre Dame’s Nic Weishar (82) makes a touchdown catch with coverage from Temple’s Sam Franklin (36) during the Sept. 2, 2017 game at Notre Dame Stadium.