Aug 20, 2013, 3:26 PM EDT
There are many student-athletes that graduate from the University of Notre Dame and enter careers outside of sports after they hang up their uniform for the final time. However, you may not know that some find their way back to Notre Dame to help mold the next-generation of student-athlete in a variety of non-coaching positions. Over the next five days we will present five Notre Dame graduates who have returned to their alma mater to work in a collection of different departments.
August 19 • Kevin Deeth ’10 (Hockey)
August 20 • George West ’09 (Football)
August 21 • Sara Liebscher ’91, MBA ’93 (Basketball)
August 22 • Steve Sollmann ’04 (Baseball)
August 23 • Mike McNeill ’88 (Hockey)
Many of the top football players in the country learned their skills in one of two football hotbeds, Oklahoma or Texas. Even fewer football players get out of those states, yet alone come to Notre Dame. Since George West left the friendly confines of Oklahoma and succeeded at Notre Dame, the University has had a better ability to recruit players in those areas.
West, a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame, recently returned to the University as game day operations coordinator after spending four years away from Notre Dame after graduation.
“In my current job I’m in charge of creating and implementing all the game day operations and hospitality events for football weekends,” said West. “Throughout a weekend we to have all the logistics worked out for all the traditions we have at Notre Dame. Whether it is the trumpets under the Dome, the Band on the Bond Hall steps or opening the LaBar practice field for fans to come by and see. These are just a few of the things that I deal with in my current position.”
It wasn’t always in the cards for West to return to Notre Dame to work. While a part of the football team, let’s just say he didn’t think he would be where he is today.
“When I was in school at Notre Dame, there was no way I was going to be back working here,” West remarked. “That isn’t a negative thing, it just wasn’t part of the plan. Things happen and priorities change. While in school I was always thinking either Chicago or going home to Oklahoma.”
West tallied 24 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown in his career and had the opportunity to be a part of a BCS bowl team and a Hawai’i Bowl victory. Upon graduation, West was unsure of what he wanted to do after injuries hampered his career. Then he heard from a former teammate.
“Initially I started working with fellow Notre Dame football alum Travis Thomas at Enterprise Rent-a-car,” said West. “We went through the management training program together, learning sales and management and climbing the corporate ladder at Enterprise.”
After the birth of his first child, West decided it was time to put his Notre Dame finance degree to use.
“I moved on to day trading and the abilities I learned while at Mendoza allowed us to live pretty comfortably,” West stated. “My fiancé and I then decided to settle-in and lay the foundation for our family in South Bend, so I decided to start looking for a long-term career in the area. I was then presented with the opportunity at Notre Dame to work with Mike Seamon at game day operations. I couldn’t pass up this great opportunity.”
Prior to West coming back to Notre Dame, he sought out advice from former teammate and game day employee Dan Santucci.
“Dan Santucci was actually the first person at the University that I got in touch with,” said West. “I heard he was back working at Notre Dame and gave him a call to talk about my goals and career path. We actually sat down a few times to discuss it. He gave me a bunch of stories about the day-to-day operations of what he did here. To be honest, he raved about the opportunity to be back at the University – walking into the Main Building – underneath the Dome every single morning for work.”
While West was a success both in the classroom and on the field, he almost didn’t attend the University. His family was the reason he did and also why he might have stayed home in Oklahoma.
“In Oklahoma, you’re either a fan of the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University. You are either a Sooner or a Cowboy, that’s it,” said West. “I was a Cowboy. At the time I was being recruited my situation was either follow my family and go to Oklahoma State and wear the orange and black or the fantastic opportunity to go to Notre Dame. Notre Dame isn’t talked about a lot in Oklahoma, but when you get that scholarship offer to attend Notre Dame it hits you. Once I received that letter, it was the first time my parents sat me down and said, we need to talk.”
At the moment when Notre Dame offered West a scholarship he had yet to hear about his future with the in-state schools in Oklahoma. Growing up a Cowboys fan, you would think an offer to play there would be next to impossible.
“Late in the recruiting cycle both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State jumped onboard and offered me scholarships,” stated West. “I still think about what decision I would have made if I was offered those opportunities at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State earlier. My family was indoctrinated by the Cowboys culture, who knows what would have happened. That is where everyone in my family went to school. I didn’t go to Oklahoma State, but it definitely worked out for the better by me attending Notre Dame.”
It’s been over four years since West has stood on the sideline for a football game at Notre Dame Stadium. His thoughts have been running rampant on what the moment will be like once he begins to walk down the tunnel, just not the way you would expect.
“To be honest, right now I’m trying to lose weight because I’m telling myself that when I walk down the tunnel I need to be in shape,” West semi-joked. “While the football team is going through training camp, I’m going through one of my own. I’m just looking forward to walking down that tunnel in a suit and take it all in. It is going to be unbelievable.”
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