{{ timeAgo('2023-03-09 08:31:00 -0600') }} football Edit

How grad transfer QB Sam Hartman is handling his transition to Notre Dame

Sam Hartman’s been through enough as a football player that it shouldn’t be surprising the toughest challenge he’s faced in his first two months at Notre Dame has nothing to do with the sport itself.

The graduate transfer quarterback from Wake Forest entering his sixth season of college football can’t help but be a little homesick. He spent his first five seasons about an hour away from his family. So of course he’s not used to being a 14-hour drive away from home.

“That's probably the biggest difference,” Hartman said. “I haven't seen my folks. You think as you get older — it flipped for me. When I was young, I didn't want to go home. Then when I got older, I was like, ‘Shoot. Mom, you coming up? Going to do my laundry or whatnot.’”

As a non-degree seeking graduate student at Notre Dame, Hartman’s academic workload hasn’t been too stressful. Though he did offer a public apology Wednesday to Theology professor John Fitzgerald just in case Hartman’s New Testament exam earlier in the day didn’t go over well.


Quarterback Sam Hartman spoke with reporters Wednesday for the first time since enrolling at Notre Dame.
Quarterback Sam Hartman spoke with reporters Wednesday for the first time since enrolling at Notre Dame. (Tyler James, Inside ND Sports)

A lot has changed at Notre Dame since Hartman decided to join the Irish — whether it was back in December when it was first reported or in early January when Hartman announced his transfer destination. A little less than a month after Hartman tweeted his commitment to the Irish, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees left Notre Dame for the same job at Alabama. Eventually, Notre Dame tight ends coach Gerad Parker was promoted to offensive coordinator and Wisconsin’s Gino Guidugli was named quarterbacks coach.

“It feels like forever ago,” Hartman said of Rees’ departure. “We just got out of a QB meeting and coach Gino’s doing a really good job working with coach Parker. We're full steam ahead. It seems like light years ago.

“Coach Rees, it's a business decision and it was understood. We've put the pedal to the metal with spring ball coming up. We have spring break next week. We're trying to get in as much as we can and install-wise. As the old saying goes, it is what it is.

“There wasn't much to it. We got the guys hired. We're excited, and the QB room’s fired up. I really like what coach Gino’s done. He's obviously had a very successful record with quarterbacks and then college football in general. He's very sharp. You guys will talk to him. You’ll see him. He's very personable. We've jelled really well in a short amount of time.

“For me, it's different. I had the same coach for five years. It was all new to me, but it's the guys around you that kind of kept you in it for those couple weeks we were in limbo. Then you get your orders and you go.”

Guidugli, who was a quarterbacks coach at Cincinnati for five seasons before following head coach Luke Fickell to Wisconsin earlier this offseason, didn’t wait long to start building a relationship with Hartman. He was officially added to the staff March 1 and has already reviewed the last four games of Wake Forest’s season with Hartman.

“You get a pretty good feel from that,” Guidugli said. “What does this guy know? How does it compare to what we’re going to call it? Just kind of comparing notes. It’s just about building a relationship, getting in the meeting room and getting around him at practice and outside the building and being able to see what makes him tick.”


Hartman expressed to Guidugli that he wished he was further along in knowing Notre Dame’s offense in February. But the two have time to cram as much information before spring practice starts March 22. They’re both learning Parker’s offense together.

In order for Hartman to maximize his opportunity in Parker’s offense, Hartman’s working on building trust with him.

“More and more as we get out and do our player-led practices or he scripts stuff or I meet with him, talk with him, there's really no drop off,” Hartman said. “I've enjoyed just getting to know him. A lot of the coordinator/quarterback relations is just about a relationship. I've really enjoyed just meeting him, met his kids, went and fished at his house actually this past weekend.

“It’s building that trust, building that confidence that he's going to call the right play, and I'm going to execute it to the ability that I need to. If we're on the wrong page, being able to be like ‘Hey, this is what I'm thinking. This is how I'm seeing this or not.’”

Hartman said he ended up at Notre Dame for a lot of the same reasons other football players end up at Notre Dame: the history and tradition, the gold helmets, the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus. But Hartman choosing to spend another year in college football was also a bet on himself in order to improve his NFL Draft stock.

Despite throwing for an ACC-career-record 110 touchdown passes and 12,967 yards in parts of five seasons at Wake Forest, the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Hartman wasn’t projected as an early pick in this year’s NFL Draft. But what’s left for him to do to prove that he’s worthy of a higher selection?

“There's always aspects of your game you can grow,” Hartman said. “You can say arm strength, talent, accuracy. It's just being able to come in here. It kind of goes with why I decided to do another year was coming to a new place. I have to learn a new group of guys, learn a new offense, take charge, take a leadership role, take a following role, everything in between. Kind of like a mini-NFL jump in a sense of just making that adjustment of coming in, being a new guy, but also being expected to be a leader, be an old guy and learning the ropes while also trying to take charge of the ropes.

“All those things can try to help me in that aspect. But once I stepped foot in here, it's not like, ‘Is this going to help me?’ It's more, ‘Is this going to help the Irish win on Saturdays or in Ireland?’ That's really the whole goal right now. All the NFL stuff after, that just happens and takes care of itself.”

In some ways, Hartman needed to distance himself from Wake Forest to prove he’s not just a product of the offense he had so much success in with the Demon Deacons. Hartman won’t describe it in that way, though. He has too much respect for head coach Dave Clawson, who took a chance on Hartman as a three-star quarterback out of Mount Pleasant (S.C.) Oceanside Collegiate Academy. Rivals ranked Hartman as the No. 31 pro-style quarterback in the 2018 class.

In that same class, Notre Dame signed four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who was ranked as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback. Jurkovec is entering a sixth season of his own in 2023 with his third school, Pittsburgh, after stints at Notre Dame and Boston College. Like Jurkovec did at Boston College in 2020, Hartman will have the opportunity to play against his former team this season when the Irish host Wake Forest on Nov. 18. But Hartman accomplished a lot more at Wake Forest than Jurkovec did at Notre Dame.


It’s safe to expect Hartman to avoid any social media posts taking swipes at his former team.

“I'm always going to have a special place for them,” Hartman said. “They believed in me when a lot of people didn't. They stuck with me for five years. That coaching staff and coach Clawson especially helped mature me into whatever I am today. I appreciated everything they do.

“Obviously the big one on our schedule, besides all the other ones, is playing Wake. It's going to be a tough one. No matter what, however you slice it, my best friends are on that team. I’ll know every single person on the team other than the freshmen, and some of the freshmen I helped recruit.

“Again, the old saying you'll hear me say is it is what it is. It sucks that it kind of happened like that, but it's nothing to jab at Wake Forest or anything. I'm completely indebted to everything that they've done for me.”

Hartman’s hard at work acclimating himself to his new coaches and teammates. He’ll want to be on the same page with his offensive linemen, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs once spring practice starts. And even though he’s five or six years older than some of his teammates, Hartman has rediscovered the feeling of being the new guy on campus.

He feels like the young buck, even though he’s the star quarterback who brought with him massive expectations. Yet at Notre Dame, that’s nothing new for whoever wins the starting quarterback job. He can fit in at Notre Dame despite being so far from his comfort zone.

“It's cool to be able to come in and not really feel like I had to do anything extra, do anything less to fit in,” Hartman said. “It’s a great group and a great locker room culture that's established by the head man himself and kind of just carries over from there.”


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