Peering in from the outside, the concept of the “Notre Dame Family” isn’t necessarily self-evident. It certainly isn’t for Dave Clawson, football coach for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. After the Fighting Irish destroyed Wake Forest 45-7 in the last Notre Dame home game of the 2023 football season, quarterback and Wake Forest alumnus Sam Hartman received a video tribute set to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” In a press conference, Clawson responded to the tribute with disbelief, saying that Notre Dame’s relationship with Hartman can’t be described as “love.” Notre Dame “rented [Hartman] for a season,” Clawson said.
Underlying Clawson’s statement is the valid point that Hartman spent a total of five seasons playing for Wake Forest. From a quantitative standpoint, Hartman’s mere months as a member of the Fighting Irish pale in comparison to his several years at Wake Forest.
But, being a part of the Notre Dame Family is so much more than a numbers game. Hartman’s status as a sixth-year transfer quarterback doesn’t change that fact. Although Hartman grew up a Michigan fan despising Notre Dame, when deciding to transfer, he couldn’t deny that Notre Dame represents something exceptional.
“It’s Notre Dame. I feel like that kind of answers itself,” Hartman said.
As is often the case for the quarterback (especially for a college with a storied past like Notre Dame), the spotlight was always on Hartman.
“I think hearing your name side by side by one of the most historic programs in the country is very cool but also humbling. You know the expectations when it comes to being a Notre Dame football player and also being a Notre Dame quarterback,” Hartman said.
Before his transfer, Hartman rose to prominence on account of his record-breaking performance at Wake Forest. Notably, he broke the ACC's all-time touchdown passing record in 2022. Being 24 years old and still playing college football — something made possible by a redshirt year and COVID-19 — certainly brought him attention as well.
Hartman made it difficult for us not to love him, even as the team suffered three disappointing losses on the field. Much of his charisma came from his humility. When presented with the mic, he continually took the opportunity to deflect credit toward others.
“[The other players on the field] are what make it happen,” Hartman said.
Hartman also took time to publicly thank the custodians after the last home game. Hartman’s consistently thoughtful and good-natured persona only amplified the baseline level of acceptance and warmth that any member of the Notre Dame family is owed — whether they be a Triple Domer or a one-year transfer student.
As you said yourself, Sam, “Thank you, Go Irish.”