How a 2016 meeting helped approve this year's Shamrock Series uniforms
Some will call it innovative and daring. Others will considered it wretched or an eyesore.
No matter, the Shamrock Series uniform was berthed two years ago at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex on Notre Dame’s campus.
James Onwualu, a senior linebacker at the time, recalled being one of about a dozen seniors and leaders on the team to meet amid the 2016 season. The Under Armour design team called the session to hear their input on a few uniform designs.
Among the displays was the pinstripe prototype for what No. 3 ND (10-0) will don against No. 12 Syracuse (8-2) this weekend. The Saturday contest will take place in Yankee Stadium.
Torii Hunter Jr., a then-senior receiver, lauded the prototype more than anyone, Onwualu recalled. Hunter remembered them as cream-colored uniforms — top and bottom — with pinstripes streaming from the shoulder pads to ankles.
Much different from Saturday’s look — as the pinstripes are sported on the pants and outer shoulders and encompassed around the helmet’s ND logo.
“I thought (the prototype) was pretty cool, because I’m a baseball fan,” said Hunter, son of former big leaguer Torii Hunter Sr. “I would not necessarily say I’m a Yankees fan, but I’m a baseball fan. So I think it’s pretty cool that they tried to incorporate pinstripes into a jersey.”
Some Irish fans would not agree with Hunter. ND’s mid-August announcement of the uniforms sparked social media backlash. Beyond the pinstripes, the Irish abandoned the traditional gold helmet, replacing it for a matte, navy blue helmet with an ND logo surrounded by pinstripes and enclosed by a golden circle.
The tops don the same navy blue hue — with the exception of the cream-colored, pinstriped outer shoulders and sleeves. It all began with the approval of Hunter and others two years ago.
“Our fans are so traditional. We can switch our jerseys once a year, and they can live with it,” said Onwualu of the reaction. “I don’t know; that’s my opinion. We are traditional forever, but you’ve got to let these guys have a little fun with it.
“You have got to let them switch it up and bring a new style to the game. Have a little character, and have a little juice. A little extra punch to finish out the season — I think it is fun. I think most of the guys would agree that, yeah, let’s keep it traditional 99 percent of the time.”
The Irish sport alternate uniforms for each game of the annual Shamrock Series, which began in 2009 and won’t be played next season. Hunter warned this year’s skeptics, saying the 2014 team similarly held doubts about the uniforms for that season’s Shamrock Series bout in Indianapolis.
“We did not know how we felt about them until we put them on in the game,” said Hunter, now a center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels’ High-A Inland Empire 66ers. “Then it was like, ‘OK, these actually look kind of good.’ You just have to let the guys go out there, put them on, get in front of the lights and see how they look.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Kurt Hinish dismissed the notion that this year’s team cares much about the uniforms — or the backlash, for that matter.
“It does not matter what I wear,” Hinish said. “I’m not a big, flashy guy, as you can tell. I like putting eye-black on, but I could go out and wear a t-shirt and play football. It does not really matter to me. What we wear is what we wear. I just enjoy playing the game.”
Meanwhile, sophomore offensive lineman Robert Hainsey called the uniforms “awesome.” Senior tight end Alizé Mack referred to them as “dope.”
Love or hate them, the uniforms provide a unique souvenir for the seniors — like buck linebacker Drue Tranquill, who Hunter recalled attending the 2016 meeting.
“Everybody is always going to have their gold, shiny helmet from their specific year,” Onwualu said. “The seniors, they are going to get these helmets and will be able to bring them home. That will be a unique part of their year that nobody else will have.”
They could also catch the attention of recruits either in attendance or watching from home.
“It is just different right now with the recruits coming up with social media and different things like that,” said Hunter, who signed in the 2013 class. “It is a lot more flashy. I feel like nowadays, guys want to be seen wearing the coolest stuff and the latest things. I’m talking like I’m old, but I feel like it has changed so much since I was a recruit.”
Fortunately for Hunter, the pinstriped uniforms changed, too.
“These are way better, because they toned down the pinstripes,” Hunter said. “I liked the fact that they tried to implement some part of the culture of the area that they are playing the game … It is enough pinstripes to be cool, but it’s not overwhelming. It is not going to look crazy on the TV screen. I think it will be a good look on TV from far away.”