The Ratigans and Notre Dame
For Notre Dame team doctor- Brian Ratigan- the transition from the field to the OR was natural.
Brian: "Sports medicine is a no-brainer. I had 7 surgeries of my own. 3 at Notre Dame, 3 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."
Growing up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Brian 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.
Brian: "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,” he said. “Holtz was there. They were on the way up. It was an easy call."
Recruited by then-defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez, the Catholic boy fit right in at Notre Dame.
Brian: "It was fantastic. You can't ask for a better situation. Lou Holtz is your head coach and Barry Alvarez was my position coach. I was studying my play book more than I was studying for school for a while there."
And by his senior year he was making a big impact for the Irish. One of his favorite moments came against Michigan.
Brian: "It was a pass play, Gerbac's dropping back. The running back's coming out, what we call an H route. 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."
Brian: "So I took a gamble and I got it. It was great. For me, I can picture everything about it."
After graduation, Brian signed as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts and played for 4 seasons before injuries eventually took their toll.
Brian: "So I've had my knee operated on 3 times, left knee 3 times. Each shoulder, lower back and a hernia."
But going under the knife seven times throughout his career gave him a glimpse into his eventual career- and during each off-season he took the pre-requisites necessary to get into medical school.
Brian: "Orthopedics, so much aligned with the sports world for me."
Brian 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.
Brian: "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."
And soon the two Brians formed an interesting working relationship.
Brian: "...he brought me in and said 'Do you want the job or not?' Just very blunt."
"He was tough the first year. 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."
“So it was actually quite fun working with Brian early on. The constant challenge. I think maybe he was testing me. Maybe he was just doing what's best for his athletes, maybe a combination of the both. Either way, it was great. He's very involved. He doesn't miss a beat."
Dr. Ratigan has performed surgery on 209 current and former players over his 12 years with the team. Some of the biggest names to wear an Irish uniform -- from Manti Teo to Kyle Rudolph.
On game day, Brian is once again on the sidelines where it's good to be home.
Allison: "What's been the most rewarding aspect of being the team doctor?"
Brian: "The guys who leave when they graduate and they seek me out and they say, 'Thanks.' That's the most rewarding, a guy who thinks I helped him. Whether he's a first rounder or he never plays in the NFL, all those guys and they just something like 'Doc, thanks for everything.'"
Brian and his wife Maura have 5 children: their oldest son Sean graduated from Notre Dame in May. Their second oldest son, Conor, is following in dad's footsteps.
Conor Ratigan is a junior wide receiver for the Irish. He was a standout player at South Bend’s St Joe High School and was getting recruited by Northwestern but when Notre Dame asked him to be a preferred walk-on, the competition was over.
Conor plans to attend medical school after his football career comes to an end.
Meanwhile, he is also hosting a podcast with his three roommates, who happen to be his team mates, called 'In the Garage' where they talk about everything from sports, to music and life after Notre Dame.
Conor: “The end goal for me is obviously not the NFL. The immediate goal would be med school. And so for me this is almost like a four-year job I took on to help me develop as a person. Having this four-year job, and it’s definitely more fun than a job. It’s difficult but at the end of the day you play football.”