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Kast turns down chance to play for Notre Dame

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By Larry Goffinet

Tell City graduate Kris Kast attended two weeks of spring practice with Notre Dame's football team recently and found out he could have made the team. But he declined because he wants to concentrate on academics.

When one of the top football programs in the country finishes with a worst ever 3-9 record, as Notre Dame did last fall, apparently it looks for new players everywhere, including among students already on campus.

So 30 potential walk-ons reported for the first day of spring practice.

Kast, a freshman who played fullback and linebacker for his dormitory's intramural team last fall, was one of them.

He played quarterback and tight end on offense and linebacker and defensive end on defense during his career at Tell City, so he has experience at a lot of positions.

He tried out for the Irish as a safety and outside linebacker.

The walk-on candidates were given a fitness test the first day and then half of them were cut.

The remaining 15, including Kast, attended practice three days a week at 5 a.m. for two weeks.

Then Kast was told he had made the team, though "they said they're were no guarantees," he reported. "They said if they ended up with too many guys (next fall) they might have to make some cuts."

The coaching staff also wanted a commitment from these players for the next four years (since Kast did not play varsity football last fall, this year could count as a redshirt year, leaving him four years eligibility left).

Kast then decided "it probably wasn't the best thing for me to do. I want to concentrate on academics - that's the reason I went to Notre Dame."

He is a pre-medicine major and wants to go on to medical school after three more years instead of having to spend five years as an undergraduate.

He also wants to spend at least one semester studying overseas, which he would have been unable to do if he committed to football.

And even if he might have eventually earned a football scholarship, that would basically only take the place of the academic scholarships he already has (he was co-valedictorian of Tell City's 2007 graduating class and recorded a perfect score on the math part of the SAT the second time he took it).

So "the only thing I would have gained (from playing for the Irish) was the experience," he said.

Considering all the circumstances, it's understandable that he turned the offer down.

But he will always have the satisfaction of knowing that he was good enough to be on the team.

* * * *

Speaking of college walk-ons, several people have speculated about Perry Central senior Nick Huber's possibly trying to walk-on in basketball next year for Cornell University, where he plans to accept an offer to run track.

Huber's father, Tim, recently said it would be virtually impossible for him to do both, though, as with indoor and outdoor seasons in track there would be too much overlap with the basketball season.

But now there is precedent for an athlete competing in both sports at Cornell - and being quite successful in both.

Jeomi Maduka, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, was named the Ivy League women's basketball player of the year after leading Cornell with 14.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and hitting 49.8 percent from the field.

She also holds 12 Cornell school records in track and field and was named a track All-American after placing eighth in the long jump at the NCAA national track and field indoor championships March 14.

Two days after jumping 20 feet, 51?4 inches in that meet, she helped Cornell qualify for the NCAA Division I women's basketball tourney. She had team highs of 14 points and eight rebounds as the Big Red beat Dartmouth 64-47 in a tie-breaking game for the Ivy League title.

That put the Big Red in the women's NCAA basketball tourney for the first time, where they lost to No. 1 Connecticut 89-47.

Of course there are times when the two sports did conflict.

Because of basketball commitments, Maduka told USA Today two days before the track nationals, "I haven't been to (track) practice all week."

And one reason the Big Red had to play a playoff game for the Ivy League title was they had lost a regular-season game to Harvard that Maduka missed while competing in a track meet.

Still in the end things worked out well for her on both teams.

I wish more athletes could follow her example and compete in two sports in the same season, in high school as well as college.