Not many would believe a Notre Dame football captain ever walked onto campus his freshman year lacking confidence.
Matthias Farley admitted it, though.
“I came into Notre Dame very moldable, shapeable and unsure of myself, questioning if I could cut it in school, cut it in football,” Farley said.
It seems shocking the 5-foot-11, 210-pound graduate student cornerback was unsure of himself — especially on the field. But his five years at Notre Dame did the reassuring trick.
“Notre Dame challenged me day in and day out, on and off the field, and has pushed me to become an all-around better person who’s a lot more confident in his abilities,” Farley said.
Farley has certainly proven his abilities for the Irish since redshirting in 2011. He’s accumulated 178 tackles and eight interceptions — not to mention almost 11,000 Twitter followers — between 2012 and Notre Dame’s 42-30 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday.
And Farley’s impressive physical and leadership presence on the field earned him one of the acclaimed captain positions for “Team 127.”
“It’s definitely been one of the biggest, if not the biggest, honors of my life to lead this team and be somebody who guides the team, encourages the team in times that are good and times that are bad,” Farley said. “There’s not that many captains in the history of Notre Dame, so it’s definitely an honor to be part of that group and this ‘Team 127.’
“ … I think it’s a special team this year and a special group. It’s been awesome to be a leader on this team.”
Farley and his fellow four captains — graduate student center Nick Martin, graduate student linebacker Joe Schmidt, senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day and junior linebacker Jaylon Smith — make up the largest season-long captain group since 2007. These five and their team have dropped just one loss this season, a close 24-22 loss to No. 1 Clemson on Oct. 3. With no defeats since, they head into their last three regular season games against Wake Forest on Saturday, Boston College on Nov. 21 and No. 7 Stanford on Nov. 28 with a shot at the College Football Playoff.
“We’re taking it one step at a time, “ Farley said. “We are in a good place right now. We’re where we want to be as far as the season has been up to this point.
“But it’s obviously not over. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ve got three great opponents coming up, so we have to be on our ‘A’-game because we know they’re going to be on theirs. Not time to look to BC yet, not to look to Stanford; it’s to really focus on Wake right now and to just make sure we’re ready to play our best on Saturday.”
Even Notre Dame’s recent No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff ranking hasn’t phased Farley.
“It’s cool and a very exciting thing, but I think everyone really understand that you don’t get anything from being ranked four or one, two or three right now,” he said. “It makes us that much more focused.”
Defensively, Farley and the Irish have managed seven interceptions, including Farley’s eighth career pick against Pitt.
“Just to get better [has been our goal defensively],” Farley said. “I think we’ve had long stretches in games where we’ve done really, really well and other times when there’s a lack of focus by one or two people, and if we aren’t focused and locked on each and every single play then big plays happen.
“I think it’s an incredible group of guys that has all the talent in the world. We just have to stay focused for 60 minutes.”
“Not 58,” he laughed.
With Senior Day this Saturday, Farley will have to stay focused for 60 minutes just one last time in Notre Dame Stadium.
“There’s been a lot of great memories [at this stadium],” Farley said. “I’d say beating Michigan last year was really exciting … and Stanford in 2012, singing the Alma Mater after every game, the student section has always been awesome, and running out of the tunnel is an awesome experience I will definitely miss.
“There’s a lot of memories — it’s hard to pinpoint just one.”
Reminiscing those memories — not to mention his career-high 49 all-purpose yards in that memorable 2012 Stanford game — and contemplating the NFL as an option after the season, brought Farley back what started it all: his decision to come to Notre Dame.
“It’s been the greatest decision I’ve ever made,” Farley said. “I wish I were able to go back and be a freshman all over again and do it all again.
“It’s changed me as a person for the better, and it’s going to be something that I miss every day when I leave.”