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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

“It’s kind of a family affair:” Xavier Lezynski talks brotherhood and background

For Xavier Lezynski, Notre Dame has always been a “family affair,” with all four of his siblings attending, and subsequently graduating from, the University. Lezynski himself will be leaving with a degree in sociology and a minor in business economics and theology, and is looking ahead to a career in college athletic administration. 

This concept also applies to Lezynski’s journey with the Notre Dame football program.

“I’ve always been drawn to Notre Dame football from the time I was three years old, and really just old enough to travel to South Bend,” Lezynski said. “I've been going to games ever since.”

Lezynski’s fascination with the program also has a familial aspect to it, as his brother, Nick, was a walk-on for the team during his own college career. Nick now serves as the senior defensive analyst for Clark Lea’s esteemed defense.  

“Nick definitely paved the way for me,” Lezynski said. “That was even more motivation for me. I got to see behind the scenes what Notre Dame football is all about. It was something that definitely intrigued me, and it was something that I wanted to be a part of, because I just knew the tradition and the prestige of the program was something that I wanted to be involved in.”

Other family members supported Lezynski’s goal of playing for the Fighting Irish, especially his parents.

“My parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams,” he said. “From a very young age, it was my dream to be a Notre Dame football player. I’m very fortunate to have had the chance to do so the past three seasons.”

This support remained constant throughout his time with the program, especially through the uncertainty that this year has brought for the team. 

“There wasn’t much hope,” Lezynski said about the beginning of the football season. “But just having the support of my loved ones during that time, and them trying to help me keep my head on straight and give me hope about having a season, I think that definitely helped me get through.”

Irish graduate student tight end Xavier Lezynski drops back to block on a punt during Notre Dame's Blue and Gold game at Notre Dame Stadium on Apr. 13, 2019.

However, while at Notre Dame, Lezynski came into another family: the brotherhood. Through his strong relationships with his teammates, his idea of a “family affair” took on a whole other meaning.

It was this family that kept Lezynski going throughout the unpredictable season, especially when all hope seemed lost.

“I remember getting the news about the Big 10 canceling back in August,” Lezynski said. “At that point, I was like, ‘Well, my college career really is over.’” The pause in the Irish’s season due to COVID-19 cases among the team also hampered his optimism for their ability to play.

“We've already put in so much work for this, and it might not even come to fruition,” Lezynski said of his thoughts during that time. “We might be done sitting at 2-0.” 

In the end, the team was able to persist, and now proudly hold their 10-0 record.

“It's so cool to see us get through that, and I think it’s made it so much sweeter, all the adversity that we’ve faced this season,” Lezynski said. “It’s just crazy to think a few months ago I was thinking we wouldn’t even be playing any games, and here we are 10-0.”

With the ACC and National Championships lying ahead, Lezynski reflected on his choice to return for a fifth year. 

“I’m so thankful that I came back for my fifth year because I definitely was having some doubts down the stretch,” he said. “But I think it’s the brotherhood that kept me going and just knowing that this team had the chance to to compete for a national championship, and obviously we’re proving that to the country right now. I can’t even tell you how rewarding it is to have stuck through with it and to be on this team. It’s been such a blessing.”

Therefore, in the end, it was family — both blood-related and brotherhood — that shaped Lezynski’s Notre Dame football career, and made this history-making season all the more gratifying.

“We are never promised tomorrow. We are never promised any day,” Lezynski said. “And I think the way we continue to believe in our brotherhood and just kind of push each other through it is what allowed us to get to this point.”