Brandon Harris came to Notre Dame to perform, but not on the football field.
Harris took up the violin at age six and chose Notre Dame for the sterling reputation of its music department rather than the historic mystique of its football program.
Harris starred on the gridiron at Benjamin Harris High School in New Orleans, La., playing running back, wide receiver and defensive back and earning team MVP honors his senior year. He contemplated playing football in college at a smaller program like Davidson College in North Carolina, but was not offered any scholarships.
"I was debating between going to college for music or going to college to play football," Harris said. "But in the end I chose to go to college for music."
Harris came to Notre Dame and focused on the violin, initially pursuing a major in musical performance and eventually switching to music theory. But soon his thoughts drifted to football again.
"I went to the football games, and it was so exciting," Harris said. "I just wanted to go out there and play at that moment."
In the second semester of his sophomore year, Harris decided to try to walk on to the football team. He hadn't put on a helmet since his senior year of high school, not even playing interhall football.
"It wasn't too hard getting back into it because I had still been working out," Harris said. "But, yeah, it was hard moving my body up to speed to the level of college football."
Harris, who has 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, made the team as a receiver. He chose wideout over defensive back, feeling he was more experienced on the offensive side of the ball.
Harris was immediately impressed with the treatment of the walk-ons by both the coaches and the scholarship players.
"Basically, the life of the walk-on is similar to the life of everyone else," Harris said. "You do the same things as everyone else. When you first come in, you get thrown right in basically."
To his own surprise, Harris played in one game in 2004. With the Irish leading lowly Washington 38-3 late in the fourth quarter, Harris saw 1:24 of action at receiver. While not recording any receptions, he was thrilled to see actual game time.
"I was real excited to be out there," Harris said. "I just had no idea what it would feel like out there. I finally got out there and had a good time."
Since Charlie Weis replaced former head coach Tyrone Willingham, Harris has moved from receiver to cornerback. During 2005 spring practice, talk spread that Harris could possibly contribute as a kick returner and defensive back.
The coaching staff was so impressed with Harris that they granted him a scholarship before the start of his senior season. Harris said he was shocked by the offer.
"It was so exciting getting the scholarship because, for one, it made my parents happy and it made me really happy, feeling that all my hard work had finally paid off," Harris said.
Harris entered the 2005 season listed as a starting kick returner on the depth chart. In the season opener at Pittsburgh, Harris returned one kickoff for 11 yards. In the home opener against Michigan State, Harris returned another two kickoffs for 42 yards.
"I was having a whole lot of fun going out there and being with the team," Harris said. "Every week it's a challenge, but at the same time it's so thrilling."
Harris has since fallen on the depth chart as freshmen receivers David Grimes and D.J. Hord are currently the first team kick returners. Harris is not upset about losing his starting job.
"No, I'm not disappointed," Harris said. "I know the coach is doing what's best for the team, and you just have to wait your turn."
But Harris still has his first love - music - to rely on. Harris plans on pursuing a career in music after graduating, possibly as a composer of film scores.
"I love composing music," Harris said. "I do it in my spare time. I'm pretty good at it. I can see myself doing that in the future at some point."
Wherever Harris goes in life, he says he will always treasure his memories of the 2005 football season.
"I'm going to be really happy to say that I was a part of something that was really special, something that I can always look back on and remember, something that I can be really proud of."