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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

Ryan Kilander fulfills dream of playing for Notre Dame

For senior defensive lineman Ryan Kilander, playing football at Notre Dame was a lifelong dream. He always rooted for the Irish growing up, and fondly recalls watching “Rudy” with his family at the beginning of every Notre Dame football season.

It is perhaps worth noting that Kilander’s experiences on the team have had a few parallels with those of the film’s titular character.

“My dad went here, he graduated [in] ‘91, so I grew up with Notre Dame,” Kilander said. “I’ve watched the football games my entire life ... I’ve been a Notre Dame guy through and through.”

Kilander was born in Germany when his father was stationed there while serving in the Army. About six months later, Ryan’s family moved back to the United States. A former standout player at Santa Margarita High School in California, Kilander walked onto the football team his freshman year and spent his first three seasons with the Irish as an important member of the scout team.

While appearing on the sideline during games, Ryan had yet to make it onto the field. During games, he has worked to keep up the energy on the sideline and has used his status to be a mentor and a leader for the younger walk-ons on the team.

“[I’m] just providing as much energy as I can on the sidelines ... making sure the guys are all ready to go,” he said of his in-game role up to this point. “Off the field, just providing a voice, especially as a senior now to the younger guys who just walked in, [saying] ‘I might not play, but I’ve worked for four years,’ and to kind of tell them how things are done.”

It would be during Notre Dame’s 52-17 victory over Miami (OH) on Sept. 30, however, that Kilander’s dream would really come to fruition.

Kilander received his first college football playing time on three plays against the RedHawks. He was thrilled to have finally had the opportunity to finally appear on the field and make a direct impact, after having spent so much time preparing other players to do the same on the scout team.

“[I was] probably the most happy and satisfied I’ve been up to that point, just knowing that your work does pay off,” Kilander said. “Three plays for most people is not much, but for someone like me or one of the other walk-on guys here, it means the world.”

For Kilander, those three plays were something of a blur, but nothing could replace the feeling of having been in the game.

“I don’t really remember it that much, it kind of all just happened so fast,” Kilander said. “I was actually talking to someone on the sidelines and they were like, ‘You’ve got to get your helmet on, you’re going in.’ I don’t really remember much, but I remember just feeling awesome for like two or three hours after that.”

Kilander has grown very close to his teammates over the past four years. He cited senior wide receiver Grant Hammann, his current roommate and a fellow walk-on, as one of his best friends on the team.

“A lot of the O-line and D-line guys are some of my closest friends,” Kilander added.

Currently a finance major in the Mendoza College of Business, Kilander intends to further his education after graduation by pursuing an MBA degree.