The Fighting Irish kicked off their season with an incredible performance against Nevada, and the newest Notre Dame Leprechaun was there to cheer the team on and pump up the crowd along the way.
“It was the most fun I have ever had, and a day I will never forget,” Dan Collins told IrishCentral. “The Irish could not have started off the season any better, and it was amazing just to be a part of it."
Collins, an Irish Studies student at ND, donned the famous green suit and became the official mascot to cheer on the Fighting Irish football team at their home opener on Saturday.
“The team definitely went beyond my expectations, especially the defense . . . Those guys were flying around the field. The energy – I’ve never seen so much of it out of our team in the past 3 years. We had an amazing game and amazing performance by everyone,” he said.
But the players weren’t the only ones who got a workout during the game. The announcer noticed the Leprechaun’s spirit, telling the crowd that “Even the Leprechaun looks like he’s working hard today.”
“I didn’t stop jumping around – I probably lost about 5 pounds,” Collins joked.
But the dedicated mascot had so much energy, he hardly noticed how hard he was working. “Being down there with the team carries me,” Collins explained, though he admitted he “collapsed” immediately after he got home from the game.
The Leprechaun’s work was cut out for him leading up to the Fighting Irish season opener. His first task was to energize the fans at the pep rally the night before.
“I was pretty nervous for that but I was really excited,” Collins said. The Notre Dame student blasted a pre-game playlist that was sure to get the Irish in the spirit. Collins and the crowd got in the “Fighting Irish mood” by jamming out to the Young Dubliners, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and Metallica’s version of the Irish classic, “Whiskey in the Jar.”
Collins says the energy that built up on campus the week leading up to the game was the kind that hasn’t been felt by Notre Dame fans since record-breaking quarterback Brady Quinn played for the school.
“We’re ready to go this year,” Collins said.
The Leprechaun says though the players spent some time celebrating after their win, they quickly went back to business, recognizing that “this is just the start.”
Next up for the Fighting Irish is a face-off against longtime rival Michigan. It will be the first away game for the team’s new mascot, and this time, Collins will be in front of over 100,000 people, many of whom won’t be cheering for the Irish.
“Michigan has one of the most hostile crowds, so I’m going right in there to start it off, but I’m pretty excited for it. And when the team’s playing, well, I can just use that energy,” Collins said.
It’s do or die time for Notre Dame when they go head-to-head with their rival this Saturday. All eyes are on the Fighting Irish, who are expected to make a major comeback this year.
“Every time it’s Michigan vs. Notre Dame it’s a big rivalry, no matter where both programs are,” Collins said.
“But this year especially Michigan is on the rise and we’re definitely on the rise, and we’re looking to make a statement this week to prove to everyone that we’re back.”