Chris Salvi believed the story of his inspiring rise from transfer walk-on to scholarship player for the Notre Dame football team was over. But 10 days after the 2013 NFL Draft concluded, he received a surprising phone call from a Chicago Bears scout inviting the safety to rookie mini-camp this weekend.
Safety Chris Salvi hopes to impress this weekend at Chicago Bears mini-camp.
Perhaps channeling Biblical figure Sampson, Salvi grew out his hair throughout his three-year run with the Fighting Irish, which took him from special teams star to a mainstay in the defensive backfield rotation. He cut those locks Monday thinking it was time to investigate other means of employment.
“Less than 24 hours later I get a call from the Bears,” he told BlueandGold.com. “That was the college hair; now it’s a new grow, I guess you could say.”
The 5-10, 190-pounder from Lake Forest, Ill., played 11 games at Butler University in 2008 before chasing a dream to play for the Irish. As a junior in 2011, Salvi registered 10 tackles on special teams in 13 games, and was named a game-day captain against Navy. Prior to his senior season in 2012, he was awarded a scholarship by head coach Brian Kelly. Salvi finished with six stops on Notre Dame’s trek to the BCS National Championship Game.
Now he has an opportunity to latch on with the NFL organization he grew up supporting.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “Ideally, I got to play with the college team I rooted for, and now I get an opportunity to play for the pro team. It takes a little bit of luck, but I’m glad it happened.
“It was really exciting to get the opportunity. I’m lucky to have the chance to do it.”
Salvi has made his own luck over the last five years.
“I always had confidence in the way I played football,” he said. “My dad and my mom probably keep it in perspective the best of anyone. When you play, you have to have confidence in yourself and can’t hope for things to happen. You have to go make it happen. Playing football [at Notre Dame] didn’t seem very possible to my family members. For me to do it, from my mom and dad’s perspective, is still something that amazes them.”
The possibility of playing at the next level, however, didn’t seem likely in the days after the draft.
“When I talked to my agent the Monday after the draft, he said it had been quiet,” Salvi explained. “He had been calling [teams], but wasn’t sure. Then he got the call that [teams] had filled up all their spots for mini-camp. Something must of happened and [the Bears] called me up.
“I started thinking about other stuff days after the draft. I knew there was still a possibility of being called, but I thought it was a good idea to start looking at other [forms of employment]. That’s going to be put on hold now.”
Just hours after getting the call from Chicago, Salvi hadn’t had a chance to check out the Bears’ roster and evaluate his chances of making the squad.
“I know the Bears are one of those teams where special teams is a very high priority,” said Salvi, who reports to camp Thursday-Sunday. “Obviously, that’s how I made my hay at Notre Dame. It’s going to be a combination of being able to do it all in terms of showing I have the ability at safety, and more importantly thriving on special teams.”
Without any promising leads earlier in the week, Salvi planned a weekend trip to Las Vegas with his brother, Will, also a former Irish walk-on, and some other friends in celebration of Will’s new job opportunity on the East Coast.
“He doesn’t mind that I won’t be there, especially given the circumstances,” Chris Salvi said.