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The Irish Ironman: Inside the career of Notre Dame's John Heisler

An ironman streak unlike any other, under the Golden Dome, that has spanned nearly four decades.

I asked Senior Notre Dame Associate Athletics Director John Heisler if he was the ironman of Notre Dame Athletics.

“I don’t know about that. I guess when you stay here as long as I have, you see a lot of things over the years, that part has been fun, it’s somewhere 460 football games that I’ve seen in a row. It’s a little scary. That was starting in the ‘79 season and I haven’t missed one since,” said Heisler.

Peel back the reserved facade and you’ll see that Heisler is first and foremost a sports fan at heart.

The South Bend native grew up in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus.

“I started going to football games in 1964 and Ara’s son Mike was a classmate of mine starting in fourth grade. I had a single ticket in football and men’s basketball and I missed a few games but not very many. I spent a lot of time out here when I was a kid,” said Heisler.

That passion for sports eventually led to a career in journalism.

After graduating from the University of Missouri, a job opened up at Notre Dame in the athletics department under then Sports Information Director Roger Valdiserri.

“Initially, ironically I wasn’t dying to come back to Notre Dame. My parents moved to the east coast while I was in college. I didn’t have this undying wish to come to Notre dame.  When you looked at the position and you looked at Notre Dame and looked at the reputation. Notre Dame won the championship in football, they just been to the Final Four in men’s basketball. It was a tremendous opportunity that I couldn’t pass up when I had the interview for the job,” said Heisler.

That decision started the impressive and improbable streak.

Over the years the job titles have changed and so has the scenery.

“Old Legion Field, I remember going down there in 1980 that was a long time ago, we played Alabama. In 1979 we actually went over to japan and played a game in Tokyo against Miami of Florida. The ‘88 Miami game when Miami came in, in the middle of October ranked number one. The Florida State game in 1993 when they were ranked number one, we were ranked number two. A lot of great memories meeting people, that’s what this job is all about. You’re dealing with media, you’re dealing with administrators. You are dealing with coaches and athletes,” said Heisler.

Journalist. Sports fan. Ironman.

Time will only tell what titles John Heisler will add next to his legendary resume.

“I’m spending more of my time writing these days. Part of this is because we are creating more of our own content. It’s fun for me, it’s a little bit of a throwback,” said Heisler.


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