Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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74 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2022 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY PATRICK ENGEL In the end, this was Nolan Ziegler's choice. He became a Notre Dame fan as a youngster on his own volition. There are, though, influential fac- tors that shape every fan's decision to adopt a team — hometown, family his- tory, first favorite player, and so on. And for Ziegler, there was no other re- alistic outcome when taking all those into account. You see, you do not grow up in Ziegler's circumstances and emerge with an affinity for maize and blue, scarlet and gray, cardinal and gold, or green and white. Or anything other than blue and gold. Like a calculus equation missing a variable, it does not compute. "You're born on St. Patrick's Day, born in Irish clothes, you celebrate it every year, I'm Irish, my grandpa played there, I grew up watching them, my family is all Catholic, and they all love Notre Dame," said Ziegler, a Notre Dame freshman linebacker. "I didn't want to be the one cheering on Michigan." The family ties had the strongest pull. Ziegler's maternal grandfather, Tim Sullivan, was a linebacker on the 1973 Notre Dame national championship team. His great uncle, Fred Trosko Jr., was a backup quarterback on the same roster. Sullivan's wife and No- lan's grandmother, Beth, was a Notre Dame cheerleader and team tutor who counted Joe Montana among her pupils. Notre Dame is quite literally the first thing he sees every day. His mother, Darcy, painted a football player wear- ing No. 42 (Sullivan's number) in his bedroom. It's next to a leprechaun logo Fathead. The basement of their Grand Rapids, Mich., area home is a shrine of Irish memorabilia and family photos in Notre Dame garb. The walls around Nolan's basement workout area are a Notre Dame Stadium mural, complete with Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome. Elsewhere, the Zieglers took Nolan to his first Notre Dame game when he was about 6 months old (a 28-20 win over Michigan in 2004). "When you start tossing the football to them — even when they're in dia- pers — you play little games in the living room like, 'You catch this ball, and you win the game for Notre Dame,'" Sul- livan said. So, yes, Nolan Ziegler becoming a Notre Dame fan was inevitable, even if he still had to make the choice him- self. It came with daydreams of playing football at Notre Dame, the fantasies of countless young boys across Amer- ica. Those turned into distant hopes when he reached high school. Where Ziegler's story turns unique is when they morphed into reality as the one- in-a-million kid who gets to live them out. Ziegler, a 6-3, 205-pound linebacker, enrolled at Notre Dame in January. The former four-star recruit out of Grand Rapids' Catholic Central High School has a locker with his name on it and a No. 42 jersey of his own. He will put that gold helmet on and run out of the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel to 77,000-plus fans for the first time on Sept. 10. It's still surreal to him, and even more so to his family. "I'm realistic enough to know how infinitesimally small the chances are your kid will go to a Power Five school you grew up rooting for, on a full ride," said Bryan Ziegler, Nolan's father and a former Division II tight end. "It doesn't matter what that school is. It's ex- tremely difficult for something like that to be achieved." GETTING THE CHANCE Darcy and Bryan Ziegler set measured initial goals when Nolan told them he wanted to play football or lacrosse in college. The Notre Dame daydreams Nolan Ziegler And His Family Bleed Blue And Gold Ziegler is fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing at Notre Dame, where his grandfather, Tim Sullivan, was part of the 1973 national championship team. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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