Friday was another emotional day of football for Irish special teams standout Chris Salvi. After finishing an early morning session of “Camp Kelly” workouts, Salvi learned his final semester at Notre Dame would be on the house.
Irish senior Chris Salvi stands with his parents before Notre Dame's 16-14 win over Boston College last November.
Salvi, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound safety from Lake Forest, Ill., left a guaranteed roster spot at Butler University in the fall of 2009 to try to walk on to Notre Dame’s team. He made the team, fulfilling a lifelong dream, and last fall gained some notoriety by making big plays on special teams. On Friday, head coach Brian Kelly announced to the team that Salvi had earned a scholarship.
“I got a text that said, ‘How would you feel if I saved you $50 grand?’ Or something like that,” said Salvi’s father, Patrick. “He was very emotional about it. It was sort of similar to when he was named a captain. He was pretty moved.”
Salvi served as the gameday captain for Notre Dame’s 56-14 win over Navy last October. He and his teammates were at the brink of tears when Kelly told them the news at the end of a trying week. Kelly’s comments in a post-practice interview a day earlier caused a stir among the team’s upperclassmen.
Kelly said the respect from his teammates and Salvi’s hard-hat mentality make him a shining example of what the Irish walk-on program produces. He will provide some veteran guidance in a young defensive backfield this season and is expected to once again be a major contributor on special teams. Last fall he finished the year with 13 tackles and a couple memorable blocks, including one that wiped out two Michigan State tacklers and sprung freshman George Atkinson III for his first career kickoff return touchdown.
“Chris has proven himself in our program. He was one of our better special teams players last year,” Kelly said Monday afternoon. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to in representing our program, and we’re fortunate and happy that we’re able to award him a scholarship. I think it says a lot about our walk-ons.”
The full ride doesn’t mean Salvi has completely given up his amateur status in campus sports. To help stay in shape this winter he is training with the school’s boxing club and fighting in its annual Bengal Bouts tournament. Salvi, in high school, idolized former professional boxer and Irish football star Tom Zbikowski. With Kelly’s blessing Salvi decided to follow in his footsteps.
Salvi also has the advantage of training with his older brother, Brian, a second-year law student who won his weight class in the Bengal Bouts last year.
“Brian is a pretty experience boxer as far as Bengal Bouts go, but Chris is kind of new. He just more goes by brute force, but he’s tried to learn some boxing skills. We’ll see how he does when he runs into more skilled boxers,” Patrick Salvi said.
He moved to 2-0 in his young boxing career last week a TKO in the second round. Many of his football teammates were on hand to see the brute force left hook that sent his opponent to the canvas and stopped the contest. He will fight in the 188-pound division semifinals Tuesday night at the Joyce Center. Tickets for the event cost $7 and all proceeds go to the program’s mission of helping Holy Cross priests fund schools in Bangladesh.
- While Salvi was listed as a senior on last year’s roster he does not need to apply for fifth-year status. Some of his credits from his year at Butler did not transfer and he will finish his undergraduate degree in December 2012.
- Kelly could not officially list the player that will be returning for a fifth year because they first have to be accepted into a graduate program at Notre Dame. He did acknowledge that he expects to have six players returning for an extra year. They are: center Braxston Cave, center Mike Golic Jr., receiver John Goodman, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, safety Dan McCarthy and safety Jamoris Slaughter.
- Kelly said he was happy to allow Salvi to try boxing this spring, but that doesn’t mean his players will have free reign to participate in other on-campus traditional sporting events such as the annual 5-on-5 outdoor “Bookstore Basketball” tournament.
“We’re not probably going down that route,” Kelly said. “There’s just too much risk. There’s much more risk there than is worth it for us.”