SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Matthias Farley came to Notre Dame as raw three-star wide receiver recruit who had only recently gone from playing football (as the world calls it) to football (as America calls it). And he only made the switch that led him to become a Notre Dame captain because of his brother.
Farley was overcome with emotion after learning Thursday his teammates and Kelly chose him to be a captain this fall. He broke down in tears while talking to the media about his brother, Nathan, who played tight end at Coastal Carolina and was the reason why he switched from playing soccer to football. His brother suffered a concussion while in college, and after it a tumor was found on the back of his brain that filled up with blood and ended his playing career.
“I played soccer and I switched to play football largely in part because it got taken from him,” Farley said, still fighting back tears. “He’s had such a huge impact on my life and everything I’ve chosen. I don’t know if I would have played football if it wasn’t for him getting it taken away. I called and talked to him. He was all excited and proud of me, which was awesome. And I talked to my mom after that. Nathan, it was awesome to get to talk to him and tell him first.
“… He started crying. I started crying. It was awesome, He’s the reason I started playing football, to be able to be able to share it with him first.”
Since coming to campus in 2011, Farley was switched from offense to defense and started 11 games (10 in place of the injured Jamoris Slaughter) on a team that went undefeated in the regular season. He struggled in 2013 and was moved to a nickel role last year, where he put up solid numbers: 53 tackles, six and a half tackles for a loss, three and a half sacks and four interceptions.
But with KeiVarae Russell looking like Notre Dame’s No. 1 nickel option and a safety rotation of Max Redfield/Drue Tranquill and Elijah Shumate/Avery Sebastian, there isn’t a clear-cut spot for one of Notre Dame’s five newly-named captains.
Coach Brian Kelly, though, said he doesn’t doubt Farley will force his way on to the field in his final year at Notre Dame.
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“He’s a guy that can serve a lot of roles for us, and then he’s on every special teams (unit),” Kelly said. “You know Matthias, he’s one of those guys who has a knack for making a play. He’s always around the ball. Just when you start to count him out, he makes a play for you.
“He’ll get his opportunity. It always looks the bleakest for him, and I always tell him, ‘Look, we’re gonna be calling on you and you’re going to have to out and make a play for us.”
Farley’s ability to have a positive impact on an Irish team that has legitimate playoff aspirations would go beyond the field even if he were lined up to start this fall. Kelly said the Charlotte, N.C. native made more connections during camp with first-year players than anyone else and “brings together all segments” of the team.
Plus, he’s an important safety net as an experienced veteran who can ably fill in if Devin Butler or Nick Watkins struggle to fill in for Russell when he moves inside, or if Redfield can’t build off an up-and-down sophomore season.
“(I’m) somebody who can be put in a lot of different situations and contribute,” Farley said. “I love this place, l love this team. I want to do anything that I can, whenever it’s called, whatever it is, to help this team win.”