Alohi Gilman adding new edge to Notre Dame defense
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Alohi Gilman has given spark to the Irish secondary racking up 17 tackles in the first three games. Now that he can finally play, Gilman has been making a big impact.
As Notre Dame got deeper and deeper into the 2017 season, the Irish defense continued to make progress as a unit, but one spot that seemed to be just a step behind was the safety position.
Unfortunately one of the biggest pieces of help was stuck on the sideline.
"It was a challenge, going up to that point just coming to practice and trying to find the right mindset not knowing if you're going to play or not going to play," Gilman said.
Gilman a fast, physical safety transferred from Navy to Notre Dame for last season but due to NCAA transfer rules found out before the first game that he'd be ineligible and has had to wait until this fall to finally see the field.
"It was tough coming to practice every day and finding the motivation to work towards something that's so prolonged. I wouldn't take it back for anything. I became a better person, first and foremost and it made me a better player," Gilman said.
Gilman's impact has been immediate.
He's become one of the team's leaders in tackles and providing a confidence that has mirrored the rest of the safety play in the first few weeks.
"Alohi brings a lot of energy to the game and a physical mentality I think. Alohi and I got really close last year. He's one of my guys," defensive back Nick Coleman said.
"Noticeable in his presence at that position and he brings an edge to our defense," Head Coach Brian Kelly said.
Gilman's journey from a small Hawaiian community on the island of Oahu to Notre Dame Stadium was filled with plenty of learning moments.
Many of them came at the Naval Academy where Gilman starred as a freshman, but a new rule requiring all players to fulfill their service commitments prompted Gilman to consider transferring, continuing his goal to one day make the NFL.
"I really enjoyed that experience in the military. It taught me a lot, and I don't think I'd be the person today without it, but it was just something I wasn't as passionate about. So I took my passion somewhere else," Gilman said.
Gilman's decision to come to Notre Dame was helped by the connection with several other Hawaiian players like Manti Te'o and Robby Toma who come from the same area.
"Good friends of mine and people when they were here I'd train with them in summers in high school. It was really good just being from there and being able to represent my community back home," Gilman said.
That community Gilman wants to support is the biggest reason he believes he's got the kind of playing style that has pushed Notre Dame's defense to a new level.
"People don't know much about Hawaii football. We're tough-nosed people out there. My community where I'm at, there's not much so football was kind of what we resorted to. Without the way I was raised, I wouldn't be the player I am today," Gilman said.
Despite the long wait, Gilman has certainly arrived and he's focused on the opportunity to compete every time he takes the field.
"It's been a while, but every day is another opportunity for me to be grateful and I'm really blessed to be here," Gilman said.