Irish Legend: Former player and current team doctor - Dr. Brian Ratigan
Former Notre Dame linebacker Dr. Brian Ratigan has become an Irish legend for his impact in the operating room. A doctor with plenty of experience, not only as a former player, but he's also been under the knife a time or two himself.
It all put him in the perfect position to make a difference at his alma mater as the team doctor.
For Ratigan, the transition from the field to the operating room was natural.
"Sports medicine is a no-brainer. I had seven surgeries of my own. Three at Notre Dame, three when I was at the Colts. So I was very aware of the orthopedic injuries and surgeries and I kind of wanted to be that guy," Ratigan said.
Growing up in Council Bluffs, Iowa Ratigan was a small town kid with big time talent.
He was Gatorade Player of the Year for the state and the top 5 athlete in the nation coming out of St Albert's High School.
He was also a National Honor Society student with a 3.97 GPA.
"Everyone offered me a scholarship. So I had everyone in the Big 10, the Big 8 and the PAC 10. So I went out to see USC and Stanford, I visited all the schools but it wasn't even close. Holtz was there. They were on the way up. It was an easy call," Ratigan said.
Recruited by defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez, the Catholic boy fit right in at Notre Dame.
"It was fantastic. You can't ask for a better situation. Lou Holtz is your head coach and Barry Alvarez was my position coach," Ratigan said. "I was studying my play book more than I was studying for school for a while there."
By his senior year he was making a big impact for the Irish.
One of his favorite moments came against Michigan.
"It was a pass play, Gerbac's dropping back. The running back's coming out, what we call an H route," Ratigan said. "So I just read it and you could see Gerbac's eyes looking at him, so he was getting ready to make his cut across, I just snuck in behind him and he just threw it to him. So I took a gamble and I got it. it was great. For me, I can picture everything about it."
After graduation, Ratigan signed as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts and played for 4 seasons before injuries eventually took their toll.
"I've had my knee operated on three times, left knee three times. Each shoulder, lower back and a hernia," Ratigan said.
Going under the knife seven times throughout his career gave him a glimpse into his eventual career. During each offseason he took the prerequisites necessary to get into medical school.
"Orthopedics, so much aligned with the sports world for me," Ratigan said.
Ratigan has worked for the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles and pretty much all of the Los Angeles professional teams, including the Dodgers and Lakers. He even did some work for USC football but the ultimate goal was always to return to Notre Dame.
"When I got here that's when I became the baseball doc right away and then two years later Will Yergler retired and Brian Kelly came in and he named me the head doctor," Ratigan said.
Soon the two Brians formed an interesting working relationship.
"He brought me in and said 'Do you want the job or not?' Just very blunt," Ratigan said. "I remember Brian would bring out these articles, these orthopedic journal articles about why you should do things and you why you shouldn't do things. And he would ask questions like 'Why don't we do this for somebody?' Some of the articles were from 1978. But he knew it and he knew it well and he knew a lot more about medicine than you would think. Certainly a lot more than I thought a head coach would ever know."
Dr. Ratigan has performed surgery on 73 current and former players over his 9 years with the team, including some of the biggest names to wear an Irish uniform - from Manti Teo to Kyle Rudolph.
The person who has had the greatest impact in Ratigan's life is his wife Maura. They met while students at Notre Dame.
She graduated from the law school and has worked as an attorney and adjunct professor at Notre Dame.
They have 5 children. Their oldest is currently a sophomore at Notre Dame.