The FieldTurf at Notre Dame Stadium could double Saturday as a red-carpet entrance as it will play pregame host to a who’s-who of celebrities such as rock star Jon Bon Jovi and former major league outfielder Torii Hunter. Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson, a regular at Irish games, won’t be there this time, but that’s only because his son, receiver-turned-coach Corey, will be off interviewing to become a Rhodes Scholar.
All three of the aforementioned celebrities have sons set to experience Senior Day. None of those players have been four-year starters like Scott Daly.
None have been nearly as anonymous, either, which says all that really needs to be said about the Irish’s second-ever scholarship long snapper.
“I think maybe that is the best compliment,” coach Brian Kelly said. “When you do not talk about your long snapper for four years, that's a pretty remarkable thing. To be that efficient, to be that consistent over four years is pretty amazing, what he's been able to accomplish here.”
Notre Dame’s special-teams play has entered meme territory this year, with fans cursing the guilty parties involved in return breakdowns, blocked kicks and far too many muffed punts. But escaping blame is Daly, who has been a steady presence on field goals and punts and whose impact has been louder — verbally, at least — through his five-year experience in the locker room.
His best friends are student-body president Corey Robinson and New York Giants defensive end Romeo Okwara, leading his mother to joke that he’ll have friends in high places if Robinson takes this political foray the whole way and if Okwara continues to build on a solid rookie season in the NFL. But Daly could find himself in the pros as well, provided he does over the next six months what he’s appropriately avoided these past five years in college: making a name for himself.
His first roommate at Notre Dame, former running back Will Mahone, tweeted a month after they arrived on campus that Daly will be the nation’s top snapper because he’s always practicing. He did his job on both warm and cold Saturdays in South Bend and in October hurricanes at both Clemson and NC State. He even found time to joke with quarterback DeShone Kizer about who unleashes a better — albeit different-angled — spiral.
“Obviously having a spiral is definitely a goal you want to have as a long snapper; it makes it easier for the holder and the punter,” Daly said, before confessing: “But watching DeShone throw the rock for the past two years, I would probably say DeShone.”
Daly arrived to Downers Grove South High in Illinois as something of a utility player who also had snapping experience from youth-league ball. He figured his future was in baseball, but sophomore coach Mark Wiggins had kicked at Illinois State, and after seeing skill in Daly that he hadn’t seen while in college, he suggested the family look into specialist camps.
Through the power of Google, Daly ended up working with snapping trainer Chris Rubio, who became a mentor and eventually named Daly the nation’s top snapper his senior year.
At a player-driven position when it comes to training, Daly has taken it upon himself in the shadows ever since, befriending 16-year Chicago Bears snapper Patrick Mannelly and studying all of his nuances. He visits Rubio’s camps regularly and has embraced the fraternity of players at his pressure-filled position. Weekly yoga classes help maintain flexibility while self-taught guitar and ukulele lessons with more musically-inclined teammates calm the nerves that come on this stage.
“He’s never had a musical bone in his body until he started hanging out with Corey and Romeo,” cracked his mother, Marianne. “Freshman year for Christmas he asked for a guitar. I’m like: ‘Guitar? You don’t play the guitar.’ ”
Daly never thought he’d have a free ride to college, either, but there he’ll be there Saturday against Virginia Tech, making his 50th straight start at Notre Dame. With a slate of specialist combines on deck this winter and a spotless four years of game film to bring with him, Daly is optimistic he’ll be afforded an opportunity to turn his formerly hidden talents into a full-time job at the game’s highest level.
“It’s been absolutely incredible, in all aspects: academically, athletically and socially,” Daly said of college. “I studied abroad in two different continents, and to be able to have just a full, immersed experience has been just amazing.”