Salvi relishing walk-on glory

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Chris Salvi won't take George Atkinson III up on his dinner offer just yet.

"I don't think I deserve a dinner," Salvi said, "because everyone else made their blocks, and if they wouldn't have done that we wouldn't be talking about this. And he made a great move on the kicker and you saw how fast he was, and no one was gonna catch him."

Three days after his pinball block on a first-quarter kick return that opened a hole for Atkinson to score an 89-yard touchdown, Salvi was still getting attention from reporters.

He took out a pair of Michigan State defenders, and Atkinson joked after the game that he owed Salvi dinner.

That's something the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Salvi would probably appreciate more than others given his status as a walk-on.

With a father who graduated from Notre Dame's law school, Salvi grew up a lifelong Fighting Irish fan. But he had no FBS scholarship offers out of high school. He initially didn't get into Notre Dame, either, so he ended up transferring from Butler, an FCS school, in 2009.

Salvi made his Irish debut on special teams last season against Pitt, sprinting down field and making a tackle on his very first play.

In the week leading up to Notre Dame's opener against South Florida this season, Salvi ran into a blocker so hard on a kickoff that he ended up concussing himself.

"We want him in a live situation, and here's as guy that's just chomping at the bit to get out there," head coach Brian Kelly said. "He's just going so hard he knocked himself out. He carries that with him."

Flash forward to Saturday, when he actually missed his block on the game's first kickoff. Special teams coordinator Mike Elston pulled him aside and instructed him to avoid letting a man get in the "chute" next time around, and Salvi happily obliged.

"I'm like, 'OK, I think I can do that,'" he said. "So I saw an opening, the guy wasn't really paying attention, I took him out and he went into the other guy."

And Atkinson went into the end zone, thanks in no small part to Salvi, who had to get right back up and into coverage on the ensuing kickoff to the Spartans.

Trying not to get caught up in the emotions of the spotlight, he has taken a simple approach.

"I've never doubted myself as a football player, because I like to think that I've got good athleticism," he said, "and then when you combine that with hard work, it usually works out."

That's been the case so far for the Lake Forest, Ill., native.

"When people talk about achieving their ultimate goal, that's what I'm doing right now," Salvi said. "I'm proud of myself, but there's more work to be done."