Irish GAs among familiar company

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It's been familiar ground after different paths for two of Notre Dame's newest additions this spring.

Graduate assistants are hardly positions of glory, but the Irish know they have the benefit of credibility with newcomers Mike Hiestand and Kyle McCarthy helping out the coaching staff.

Hiestand is the son of current offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. McCarthy graduated from Notre Dame in 2009 before spending time at safety with the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders.

McCarthy has spent plenty of time working with the Irish secondary. Given his college and NFL experience, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has been able to rely on him plenty so far.

"I can lean all over him -- he's a graduate assistant," VanGorder quipped. "He's very bright, very bright. … Kyle brings a really good perspective I think to the game, good knowledge, and he's done a very good job."

Added Brian Kelly: "He's really a guy that can be a full-time coach. And that's hard to do. Look, just because you played in the NFL doesn't mean that that translates into being a good coach, a good teacher. Because that's what we are, we're teachers and educators. He just has a really good way about him and his ability to communicate and teach is a trait that he just naturally has. He loves the game. He really enjoys being around the players and so he carries that with him every single day.

"So he can stand in front of the group and he has immediate credibility as a Notre Dame football player, a captain and a guy who played in the NFL. But you need even more than that, and you have to be able to do a great job of teaching, and he does a really good job of teaching."

Hiestand played linebacker at Illinois State before working as a GA at Miami (Ohio) and FIU. His father recalled many conversations between the two about the game, with the son always making sure to take notes everywhere he went. Harry said Mike would even ask him for notebooks from some of his previous coaching stops.

"It's great for me, because I know he has a passion for it," Harry said of having Mike on staff. "I always knew that. I never pushed him toward it -- his mother can't believe he's doing it.

"But he's always had a real, real desire to do this, and when Coach [Kelly] talked to him about the opportunity, I knew without saying anything to Coach that he'd really be good at it. Just because I knew how passionate he is about football. He's always been that way."