Measurables not what distinguishes former Notre Dame center Sam Mustipher at Pro Day

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Had Sam Mustipher been invited to this month’s NFL Scouting Combine, none of his measurables would have overwhelmed spectators.

The former Irish center registered a 5.59 40-yard dash at Notre Dame’s Pro Day, which was held at the Loftus Sports Center on Wednesday. In the Brian Kelly era, no former ND player has clocked a slower time than Mustipher at the NFL Combine or Pro Day.

None of Mustipher’s other results impressed either — both compared to ND’s other 16 participants and this year’s offensive linemen at the combine. Measurables, though, hardly contributed to Mustipher distinguishing himself as a three-year starter and 2018 Rimington Award (country's best center) finalist.

NFL teams in contact with Mustipher knew his Pro Day numbers would not raise eyebrows. They heard a different pitch when interviewing the 6-foot-3, 304-pounder.

“Fundamentals and just being a consistent guy,” Mustipher said. “That’s what I am and that’s who I’ve been my entire time here at Notre Dame. That’s something I hang my hat on — just being the same, exact guy every single day.

"It doesn’t change based on how I’m feeling or what’s going on outside when I step into this building, any building as an NFL player. I’m going to give my all for the team.”

Here’s how Mustipher’s Pro Day numbers would have compared with the combine's offensive linemen: 39 of 39 who ran the 40-yard dash (5.59 seconds), T-40/48 for the 225-pound bench press (20 reps), T-33/40 for the vertical jump (26 ½ inches), T-35/42 for the broad jump (101 inches) and T-30/41 for the 20-yard shuttle (4.84 seconds).

Still recovering from surgery on his torn ACL, former Irish left guard Alex Bars partook only in measurements. That left Mustipher as the only participating offensive lineman.

“You have to control what you can control,” Irish offensive tackle Robert Hainsey said. “That’s what Sam does, and that’s what he taught me. That no matter what, when Sam gets his opportunity, he’s going to shine. He has great film, he’s a great player and a great leader. One of the highest characters, if not the highest character guy I know.”

That undeterred approach showed through Mustipher’s actions the last couple months. For starters, he didn’t block out the combine. Mustipher was among those cheering for former Irish receiver Miles Boykin, who surprised with a 4.42 40-yard dash.  

“I was tuned in for that reason and that reason alone,” Mustipher said. “I wanted to support those guys.”

Mustipher’s Pro Day performance also didn’t seem to faze him. Ask any of Mustipher’s teammates, and they will express more displeasure about his combine snub than he will.

“Honestly, I was pretty pissed off for him,” Bars said on last month’s Pod of Gold podcast. “… For him to get snubbed like that, I kind of thought that was garbage.”

An unwavering consistency comes with Mustipher. Through the thick and thin, he’s calm. That helped him start 38 straight games and secure a captain role on last year’s College Football Playoff squad.

When Bars sustained his season-ending injury last September, ND's perfect season looked to be in jeopardy. The Irish looked to Mustipher to mentor  next-man-in Aaron Banks. The then-sophomore held his own for the most part, showing flashes en route to ND's 12-0 start.

“I think he’s an incredible football player,” former Irish linebacker Drue Tranquill said of Mustipher. “He’s a tough kid, great teammate, a guy that makes the locker room better and makes guys around him better.

"He’s been a captain. He’s a guy who did engineering here while playing football. And he’s a guy that can certainly take hold of the offensive line and lead a group of guys at the next level.”

Mustipher spent this offseason in Anaheim, Calif., working with other NFL Draft hopefuls at the STARS Sports Training facility. Quarterback Will Grier (West Virginia) and offensive lineman Dalton Risner (Kansas State) made up Mustipher’s primary workout group. 

In addition to his training, Mustipher scoured through NFL film, studying tendencies and formations. Teams pondered if Mustipher could slide to guard — a move he’s happy to make if necessary.

“Just my ability to move in space,” said Mustipher on what he needs to prove. “It’s well known, my leadership ability, my football intelligence. But my ability to move in space and make plays. In the NFL, it’s a faster league, so you have to be able to pass protect and react. You can’t just see things and not act on them. Now, you have to act on them.”

He may not hear his named called during the NFL Draft, which begins April 25 and concludes on the 27th. WalterFootball.com projects Mustipher as a sixth round pick at best, and his Pro Day results likely didn’t improve those chances.

But Mustipher’s intangibles? He will continue to tread onward, carrying with him a consistent, resilient demeanor.

“Not getting to the combine didn’t make me work any harder,” Mustipher said. “I’m always going to work as hard as humanly possible and as hard as I can go. That didn’t do anything in terms of that. But it’s definitely something that I looked forward to doing. Not getting that opportunity, I definitely feel like I deserved to.”

Sam Mustipher during Notre Dame Pro Day on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, inside the Loftus Sports Complex at Notre Dame in South Bend.