Every Play Every Day by Timmy O'Neill
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My Life as a Notre Dame Walk-On


“If you don’t have a dream,
how can you have a dream come true?”
~Jiminy Cricket~

hen thinking of a title for this book I almost went with No, Not Like Rudy. Inevitably, whenever someone found out I was a walk-on with the Notre Dame football team, they would say, “Oh, like Rudy.”
           I realize the tale of a Notre Dame football walk-on has been well documented in the movie Rudy. The movie helped to put the Notre Dame walk-on in the mind’s eye of many fans and moviegoers alike. I met the movie’s namesake, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger on two occasions. I have tremendous respect for what he accomplished and he is a true testament to the power of hard work and perseverance. With that being said, and I speak on behalf of all of my walk-on teammates, we never endeavored to be the next Rudy. Rather, we constantly tried to fight the stereotype of being the hard worker who did not quite measure up in terms of athletic ability. Our goal as walk-ons was never to only play a minor role without speaking lines. Our goal was to play and contribute.
           I enjoyed some of the greatest moments of my life during my time at Notre Dame. I also experienced some of the most frustrating and disappointing moments while there. I fought a constant battle of mind over circumstance and truly believed good things would eventually happen, even when the light at the end of the tunnel seemed a thousand miles away; if I could even see it at all.
           In Paradise Lost, Milton said, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.” The truth of these words ring so true to me when I reflect on my time at Notre Dame. The world and your circumstance are truly how you envision them. No matter what the reality of the situation was, I always envisioned myself being successful and achieving my dreams. The ability to create my own reality through my attitude is probably the single most important lesson I learned. A positive attitude and a strong work ethic can overcome anything.
           But, this book is not the work of Milton; it is simply the story of a journey I embarked on when I was five years old. Notre Dame stuck to my heart then, the same way cotton candy sticks to a little boy’s nose. It was during these formative years I first set my sights on playing football at Notre Dame. My parents always encouraged me to dream big dreams, and this was one advantage I had in the pursuit of this goal. I also never entertained the possibility it might not happen. It was one of those things, where deep down, I knew I could do it; I knew I could play football for Notre Dame.
           In order to preface this book I think it is important to tell you a little bit about me. I suffer from a quality I call wonderfully delusional. I think there is nothing I cannot accomplish. I believe if I set my mind to something, I can attain it. If I wanted to be president, I believe I could be. If I wanted to travel to outer space or climb Mt. Everest, I think I could do that too! I do not believe we are put on this earth to fail. I truly believe we were created in His image and likeness and engineered for success. It is my sincere belief if people just simply had more confidence in themselves, their lives would be infinitely happier. As Nelson Mandela said in his 1994 inaugural speech:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”