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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

For Colin Grunhard, Notre Dame football is family

For senior offensive lineman Colin Grunhard, being a member of the Fighting Irish doesn’t just equate to football; it’s family. Hailing from Kansas City, Kansas, Grunhard was faced with a hard decision his senior year of high school — take one of the many offers he received from smaller schools or attempt to continue a family tradition by walking on at Notre Dame. 

“It’s like a big family university for us,” Grunhard said. “So when I was in high school, I really wanted to go to Notre Dame. Then I started getting some smaller offers from different schools, but always kind of wanted to go to Notre Dame, so I decided to walk on here.”

Grunhard isn’t the first member of his family to come to the University; both of his parents and his older brother graduated from Notre Dame. Moreover, he isn’t the first to play football for the Irish. In fact, his father, Tim Grunhard, was an offensive lineman starter on the 1988 team that went undefeated to win 31-30 in the national championship against Miami in Notre Dame Stadium. 

If being a member of the Irish’s brotherhood equated to family, then the origin of the relationship between Grunhard and senior wide receiver Jafar Armstrong comes as no surprise. Friends since freshman year of high school and high school teammates, Grunhard and Armstrong had always talked about playing college football together. 

“Me and Jafar, we’ve been friends since freshman year of high school, so you know it’s almost eight years now,” Grunhard said. “The biggest thing in high school was that we both loved playing football, and we both knew we were gonna play at the next level at some place, and Jafar had offers everywhere. The biggest thing that kind of kept us together was just loving the University of Notre Dame, and then the athletics, the academics and the history.”

Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Irish senior offensive lineman Colin Grunhard lets out a roar during Notre Dame's 45-14 loss to Michigan Oct. 26, 2019 at Michigan Stadium.

Faced with a senior season like no other, from playing during the COVID-19 pandemic and seeing the Fighting Irish join the Atlantic Coast Conference, Grunhard has had a unique experience. Moreover, with the Irish set to make an appearance Saturday in the ACC Championship against the Clemson Tigers, the senior is set to help write Notre Dame football history. 

“I think it’s just unbelievable,” Grunhard said. “If you would have told me that Notre Dame would be playing in a conference championship, really at any point in history, I would have told you you were a liar because it just doesn’t happen at Notre Dame because we’re independent. I mean it’s a great honor, it’s a great challenge ... and it’s a great stepping stone for building the future and writing our own history.”

While football has been a truly memorable experience for Grunhard at Notre Dame, opportunities for community outreach strengthened his experience with not only his team and the University, but also the South Bend community itself. 

“Other than football, there’s been so many great things at Notre Dame,” Grunhard said. “One that just kind of came to mind was the community outreach — a lot of guys on the team, we’d got to the South Bend soup kitchen and we’d volunteer once a week. You get to build relationships with the people that work there and get a greater understanding of the community of South Bend. The Notre Dame experience and the South Bend experience can be different at times, but it’s important to realize that it’s all one community, and it was just a great experience.”