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ND’s Joe Schmidt Earns Scholarship

In the recent tradition of special teams mainstays Mike Anello (2007-09) and Chris Salvi (2010-12), Orange, Calif., native and junior inside linebacker Joe Schmidt reportedly has been put on scholarship by the Notre Dame football program.

Inside linebacker Joe Schmidt (38) made six tackles on special teams as a sophomore last year and reportedly has been placed on scholarship at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame didn’t officially release the news yet, but excited teammates of Schmidt — past and present — made the announcement via Twitter last weekend.

Wrote Salvi: “Congrats to ‪@joeschmidtiv‬ for earning a scholarship. His success last season was the tip of the iceberg.”

2008-12 defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore was among the many who followed up: “JOE!!!!!! Congratulations my man! You deserve it. Keep up the hard work.”

A combination of Schmidt’s efforts and some recent attrition helped open a spot for the preferred walk-on, who tweeted, “I am so blessed. Thank you God thank you God thank you God.”

Among the players who recently departed the Notre Dame program were 2012 freshman quarterback Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati) and two of his classmates at receiver, Davonte’ Neal (Arizona) and Justin Ferguson. In addition, five-star California defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes, who signed with Notre Dame in February, will not be enrolling and plans to attend UCLA instead.

Schmidt would now give the Fighting Irish 82 scholarship players entering the 2013 campaign (the NCAA permits 85).

The 6-0, 230-pound junior linebacker from Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.) — whose alumni include 1964 Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte and current Marquette director of athletics Larry Williams, an All-American offensive lineman and captain at Notre Dame in 1983 — turned down scholarship offers from Air Force and Cincinnati, and a preferred walk-on position at USC (good friend and Trojans quarterback Max Wittek also attended Mater Dei), to do the same at Notre Dame. He took some grief from others because of his decision.

“Some people don’t understand because I could have taken a scholarship and gone to school for free somewhere else,” Schmidt told back in February 2011. “That’s been kind of difficult to defend. My immediate family have all been really supportive and are proud of me, but my extended family all wanted me to go to USC, so they weren’t very happy.

“It’s the coolest feeling I’ve ever had in my life. This has been my goal since the day I started playing football. There are not a lot of people in this world that can say they played football for Notre Dame, but I’ll be one those people who’ll be able to say he did.”

Schmidt was a three-year starter and a team captain for the Monarchs, racking up 92 tackles, ten for loss yardage, with six-and-a-half sacks, as a senior.

Schmidt started on special teams last year and recorded six tackles, including two in the victory at hometown USC. Although Schmidt does not posses prototype size for the inside linebacker slot, the Notre Dame coaching staff has been impressed with his savvy, technique and work ethic since the day he reported to camp as a freshman.

The Irish also are relatively short on bodies at inside linebacker, signing only one in 2011 (Jarrett Grace), none in 2012 and one in 2013 (Michael Deeb). Grace will be part of a three-man rotation at the Mike and Will spots this year with fifth-year seniors Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese.

After Fox and Calabrese exhaust their eligibility this season, the lone scholarship players on the inside next spring, for now, might be Grace, Schmidt and Deeb. Senior Kendall Moore also could return for a fifth season, and junior Anthony Rabasa has worked at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end.

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