Career yardage leaders for passing, rushing and receiving at Notre Dame.
SOUTH BEND – Sam Mustipher was fascinated by the Russian hacking story and its influence on the U.S. election — like many Americans. He thought it was “crazy” and “interesting,” but perhaps for different reasons.
Notre Dame’s starting senior center is a computer science major, and once his football career is over, he plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity. He originally wanted to go into civil engineering, but then a family friend explained how this profession relates to sports.
“It’s like building a playbook,” Mustipher said. “Like a defense against hacking. It’s ultra-competitive and right up my alley.”
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The 6-2, 305-pound Mustipher wasn’t always interested in a career in technology; he just knew it “was going to be something major and something I had to learn eventually.” Mustipher was always good at math, liked science and in his junior year of high school, he took a programming class and learned how to build games. Once he arrived at Notre Dame, he enrolled in classes such as computer security, database concepts and networks, and will take one on algorithms this year. He’s identified consulting as a potential future job, in which he helps companies identify vulnerabilities so they can avoid being victims of a cyber attack.
“That’s why I want to do cybersecurity, because it’s in the news right now,” Mustipher said. “It’s in the now. You see companies every day getting hacked — like Target. And it’s like, I shop at these places so I want to stop this from happening.”
This summer, Mustipher stayed in South Bend and interned at Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem. He had a tight schedule where he’d lift on campus in the morning, spend several hours working with electrical engineers on software to monitor water levels of rain gardens during the day, then return for team conditioning in the afternoon.
He’ll continue doing more software research in a lab alongside one of his mentors this year.
This aggressive work has helped Mustipher with his football routine. In his second year as a starter, he’s more focused on reading defenses.
“You have to be a student of the game,” he said. “That’s something (offensive line coach Harry Hiestand) preaches to us all the time. When you study, you see things. You see tendencies. You just have to be confident.”
Mustipher struggled some last year. He wasn’t the only one, as the offensive line as a whole failed to protect quarterback DeShone Kizer, allowing 28 sacks (ranked No. 71 nationally), while the running game couldn’t get going and averaged just 163.3 yards per game (No. 80).
The most glaring point for Mustipher was a 10-3 loss to N.C. State during Hurricane Matthew. He had trouble getting a grip on the ball on a water-logged field and botched too many snaps. Coach Brian Kelly called him out in the postgame, saying his inability to snap the ball was “atrocious.”
He didn’t doubt himself after that, nor did he lose his starting job.
“It was just coming back each week ready to go,” he said. “You just have to have mental toughness. You have to have short-term memory. Let it go and move onto the task at hand.”
After protecting first-year starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush and opening up the running lane more this year in Chip Long’s more physical run-play action offense, fending off cyberwar criminals seems like a logical next step.
Follow IndyStar reporter Laken Litman on Twitter and Instagram: @lakenlitman.