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November 11, 2015

Joe Schmidt

South Bend, Indiana

Q. On top of being a Notre Dame player and Notre Dame captain, what do you anticipate kind of feeling on Saturday?
JOE SCHMIDT: You know, I kind of started thinking about that the other day. I think we were talking about it, me and I think Jared were talking about it. I don't think that before the game I'm really considering the fact that it's my last time. Maybe it might come into play a little bit throughout the game, and maybe just a little extra juice.

But really the whole day is about Wake Forest and in a big game against a quality opponent. So I think that maybe after the game will be a little different, but having the families on the field and such. But I think that that's really when the differences will start to occur, because as soon as we get in that pregame locker room for pregame, it's really all about Wake.

Q. When you're out on the field stretching and going through that, you're not going to look around and say this is the last?
JOE SCHMIDT: I do that every time. I try to -- at least this season I've tried to take in, even last year and every game that I've been here at least, I remember that this is really a very special time and a special environment. There is no place like Notre Dame Stadium on game day, and I'm just living my dream.

So when we're doing that pregame stretch, I take a look around and remind myself that this is a dream, and thank the guy upstairs for giving me that opportunity.

Q. As much as you guys want to block out playoff rankings and hypotheticals and all of that, do you enjoy being part of that conversation though? Do you enjoy being the extra buzz that that gives the season, Notre Dame, whether they're fifth last week or fourth last week?
JOE SCHMIDT: You're kidding me? I think that the playoff conversation is really not really relevant to what we're doing right now. Maybe it provides some of the younger guys some extra energy and something to look at. It's the light at the end of the tunnel. But for the guys that have been here for a really long time, and even those guys that were part of the 2012 run, I think we've kind of seen and especially like I remember in 2012, I think like the last week a couple teams lost games that they easily could have won. I think Oregon lost.

Q. It was Oregon and Kansas State lost?
JOE SCHMIDT: Kansas State lost. And I just remember thinking, and I remember how Coach Kelly kept us focused then, and I think that our coaching staff does a good job. Really that stuff doesn't matter. So we're just trying -- we know that any game we can lose, and we need to make sure that we're ready to play.

So really our focus is all on Wake Forest, and that's the only game that matters right now. So the rest of the conversation, it really is just conversation for people that want to talk about it.

Q. Do you remember anything about that night? I think some students gather around. I think it was after Senior Day as well. I might be mistaken about that.
JOE SCHMIDT: It was actually Wake, yeah, I remember that.

Q. So you do remember?
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah, I was at Danny McCarthy's house, yeah, watched the games happen. It was an interesting evening to say the least.

Q. Before the season we talked about leadership depth on this team and how many leaders there were each position group. Now that you're this far into the season, how has that played out? Is there been instances where there have been almost too many voices or has that never been something that's come up?
JOE SCHMIDT: I think we have a great amount of respect for each other. The guys on this team have a great amount of respect for each other. And I think that's given -- it's taken a little stress off of people. Like you don't have feel like you have to lead 100% of the time in the same way, in the same -- because sometimes I think people that are being leaders are trying to lead sometimes maybe stretch themselves out into positions they don't exactly need to be in.

We have a lot of different guys that lead in different ways. So having all of those different leadership styles has provided, I think, a good balance and something that we can lean on as we get later into the year.

Q. So it's almost like you can narrow your focus on the linebacker. Sheldon can narrow it on the defensive line, is that kind of what you're saying almost?
JOE SCHMIDT: I wouldn't say -- I think Sheldon has an influence over the whole team. And where I spend most of my time with the linebackers, like I try to look at the whole defense and the whole team as well. So I think that I'm more, speaking to how someone is to lead, whether there is a more vocal way, how they're being vocal that day. If they're -- kind of the more day-to-day, what you're doing as a leader. I think that's kind of what I'm talking about.

Q. How does that translate into making practices better, practices more efficient, more successful?
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah, when the guys are driving, it's a different motivation for the team to work when it's player driven. So Coach Kelly doesn't have to get all over us, because we'll get all over ourselves and we can try to police that on our own. So I think that helps with practice.

Q. Sheldon specifically, I know we've talked a lot about the leadership that he's kind of gained from last year to this year but does that manifest itself on the practice field on Saturday? How does it come about?
JOE SCHMIDT: It's everywhere. Like he's a driving force in the locker room, in the meeting room, on the practice field and on the playing field. He's done an excellent job. He's doing an excellent job, and he's somebody that I really count on.

Q. I want to ask you about when you first got here, what your expectations were for yourself, and obviously I imagine you've kind of exceeded those?
JOE SCHMIDT: I don't know if I would use expectations as my word. I think I would say when I got here I had a vision and to steal from Joe Palmieri, I had a vision and a purpose when I got here. And I really think that I kind of set goals and like mark said I wanted to achieve in my time at Notre Dame.

There are still goals out there that I have yet to achieve, and I set goals not only for myself, but for the team that I was going to be a part of. So there are individual and team goals that I'm still working very hard and striving for. I know the team's working hard for. So I definitely haven't exceeded or met, I guess, if we're talking about goals, I haven't met all those goals.

But I've knocked off a few of them, and I'm looking to hopefully knock off a few more here at the end of the year.

Q. When you look back at being named captain at the beginning of the year, I remember when you came in you were emotional. Looking back at that, how special was that moment to get the C on your chest?
JOE SCHMIDT: I know at the time I said that I don't -- it hadn't really sunk in, and it's still weird when you ask me the question about being the captain here, and I feel like every time I put the jersey on and it has the little C there, I honestly doubletake, which is funny, because it is game 9 or 10 now.

But it's something that's an incredible honor to lead a group of guys like this, to be a part of a team like this and to be viewed as a leader and a captain, it's a great responsibility and it's something that I think that I'll carry with me the rest of my life. And it's incredibly special to me.

Q. You kind of touched on this, but how special is it to play at Notre Dame Stadium in front of those fans?
JOE SCHMIDT: It's something I've always dreamed of just playing here. When I was a little kid sneaking in with the snow on the ground until now, it's been a whirlwind of a journey. It's really been an amazing experience and something that is one of the highlights of my life.

Q. Finally for me, I saw Sam (Indiscernible) is going to be doing the coin toss with you guys. How neat is that for you guys? Because he's kind of been along on the road since your freshman year with you.
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah, and I've really developed a cool friendship with him. I mean, he's one of the boys. He's a great dude. He's a world champion, and so I think just seeing how he's kind of overcome his obstacles, which makes any of ours look like child's play. It's just been fantastic to see, and I'm looking forward to seeing him this weekend.

I don't get to see him as much right now with football season being in full swing. So it will be cool to kind of say what's up before the game.

Q. It seems like sometimes Senior Day the parents and the families get into it more than the actual players do because they're so focused. I wonder what this ride has been like for your parents?
JOE SCHMIDT: Oh, it's been pretty surreal. I think it's going to be a tough day for both of them. My mom and my dad really love Notre Dame, and they know how much this means to me. So I don't know. I'm expecting my mother to be crying, so I'm kind of preparing myself mentally for that encounter on the way out there. It's going to be fun though and really a special moment to be able to share with my parents.

Q. When last winter when Sheldon and Ronnie were kind of going through their decisions about whether to come back or not, I wonder how much you were plugged into their process, and also what the team's reaction was when they found out both were coming back.
JOE SCHMIDT: I mean, I was talking to them, but really I think that at that time I tried to give them their space and let them make their own decision that was right for them. I knew what I thought. I knew what I would have done, you know.

Q. Us too.
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah, right. But I think that it's important that they make that decision on their own, and they came to, I think, the right conclusion. It's been great having them both back. I guess I wasn't really involved in their decision-making process. I was more a friend saying, hey, hope you'd come back. I'd love to play with you again.

Q. When you're done here and done with whatever football lies beyond Notre Dame, do you want to have a connection with football somehow or are you going to go in a different direction at that point?
JOE SCHMIDT: No idea. I'm trying to just focus on the season to be honest with you. And everything after that is after that. Right now I'm on a one-track mindset, and it's all about Wake Forest. That's all it is about right now.

Q. Not a lot of people that start as walk-ons here finish as fifth-year seniors here. I wonder when that became a reality for you when you said, wow, I've got a chance to come back and play another year? When did that become your reality?
JOE SCHMIDT: I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know. I kind of like knew it was a possibility when I didn't play as a freshman, and then when I started playing as a junior and a senior, I think it became, all right, yeah. I'm going to for sure be here because obviously once you have the scholarship, our fifth-year process is a little different than normal -- than normal universities, I think. So that's kind of like I always had it in the back of my mind. But I had to think as a freshman and sophomore, you're not thinking about your fifth-year. Just it's just on the back burner.

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