November 29, 2023 // Diocese

Walk-On Eifert Walks Away with Golden Memories

Griffin Eifert had run out of that tunnel before.

As a senior wide receiver for the University of Notre Dame football team, the Fort Wayne native and Bishop Dwenger High School graduate had donned the blue and gold two dozen other times throughout his four years in South Bend.

But this time was a little different. It was his last time in a Fighting Irish uniform.

“It’s been a pretty emotional day,” Eifert said moments after a 45-7 Senior Day victory over Wake Forest on Saturday, November 18. “Having a lot of family here means a lot. Just seeing them on the [Victory March] was pretty special. And then having them come down to the field was awesome, taking pictures. It was a great day overall.”

Photos and video by Eric Peat
Notre Dame senior wide receiver Griffin Eifert runs onto the field for the second half of the Senior Day victory over Wake Forest on Saturday, November 18.

As a preferred walk-on, Eifert had come to Notre Dame in 2020 with full knowledge that he may never see the field during a game. He still poured his time, effort, and energy into the program, enduring hundreds of workouts and practices as a member of the scout team. Though he dressed for every home game, he had never played a single snap of collegiate football. And while that didn’t change in Eifert’s final game – the 500th played at Notre Dame Stadium – neither did his positive attitude or his love for his team.

“I think I just like being around the guys, being in the locker room, creating those friendships, and then just playing football at the end of the day,” Eifert said of what has allowed him to embrace his role from the first day he stepped onto campus. “Playing football with all my friends is what I love to do. I think that’s kind of what drove me to stick it out these four years.”

It’s a team-first, other-centered mindset that his parents, Greg and Julie Eifert, have come to expect from their youngest child.

Eifert and his immediate family pose together following Notre Dame’s Senior Day victory over Wake Forest on Saturday, November 18.

“I think just being a part of such an unbelievable football program, and the friendships that he’s made,” Julie said. “I think that’s what drove him just to be a part of the program, and to build those relationships that he’s made over the last four years.”

“He just really seized the moment and wanted to be a part of it,” Greg said. “And we told him whether he gets on the field or not, you’re going to get a degree from Notre Dame, which is pretty special.”

In fact, Eifert had dreamed of running out of that tunnel as a member of the Fighting Irish since his childhood. His oldest brother, Tyler, was an All-American at Notre Dame, winning the Mackey Award in 2012 as the nation’s top tight end. By the time Griffin was in high school and starring at Bishop Dwenger, he knew his goal was within reach.

“Bishop Dwenger was actually perfect for me,” Eifert said. “We follow pretty much the same characteristics here – the determined, hard-nosed practices, the workouts, just everything Dwenger does. It’s just a little more amplified here at Notre Dame. But overall, it’s pretty similar and really helped prepare me for Notre Dame.”

Eifert watches from the sideline during Notre Dame’s Senior Day victory over Wake Forest on Saturday, November 18.

Eifert helped steer the Saints to a 25-3 record over his junior and senior seasons, capturing the Class 4A State Championship in 2018. As a wideout, he led the offensive unit in touchdown receptions both years, finishing his senior season with 30 catches for nearly 500 yards and seven scores. He also finished with a team-high five interceptions both years from his safety position on defense. When Eifert decided to join the Irish as a preferred walk-on, he leaned on the experience of his older brother, Grady, who was a walk-on for the Purdue basketball team and worked his way up to starting every game as a senior.

“Just going through the process as a walk-on – just showing up every day asking what the coach is needing of you, kind of executing it for the starters,” Grady said of the advice and encouragement he passed along to his younger brother. “Griff’s on the scout team, so just being prepared for that stuff. Just showing up and doing your job every day was big for me, and I kind of pushed that on him, as well.”

Eifert embraced it all as he pushed through the grind of each football season on the scout team: walk-throughs and lifting sessions on Mondays, film sessions and padded practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as he simulated the upcoming opponent’s offense and special teams, run-throughs on Thursdays, and walk-throughs on Fridays.

“I love scout team,” Eifert admitted with a smile. “I like being able to play free, make the defense look bad, compete against them, get better, and make them better.”

The hard work and dedication impressed Tyler, a first-round NFL draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 who played professionally for eight years after graduating from Notre Dame. Although he’s 10 years older than Griffin, Tyler said they have grown closer through their shared hobbies and talk almost every day.


“I’m just super proud of him – seeing him go through Notre Dame, get through the school part of it, which is not easy,” Tyler said. “And then being here for four years as a walk-on, you’re not sure if you’ll play or not, but you know that you’re helping the team on scout team. There’s nothing like being part of a team, and I think that’s what drives Griff – just doing his best to help the team win in any way that he can. And then having that camaraderie with the rest of the guys is just something you can’t replicate anywhere else.”

The relationships forged with his teammates has been a highlight for Eifert from his four years with the Fighting Irish. Among the “lifelong friends” he has made through the football program is his former roommate and All-American tight end Michael Mayer, who is currently a rookie with the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. Other highlights include being on the sideline at Notre Dame Stadium for a double-overtime victory over top-ranked Clemson in 2020, as well as last year’s snow-filled home finale vs. Boston College.

Above all, Eifert has relied on his family and his faith to help him navigate the highs and lows of life as a walk-on at the University of Notre Dame.

“You’re surrounded by faith,” Eifert said of the campus. “The football team – you pray before every game, have Mass before every game. The Grotto is a really special place that I’ve taken advantage of. You’re surrounded by it. It’s Our Lady’s university, and it’s a really special place.”

Eifert poses with his family and friends who came to watch his last home game as a member of the Fighting Irish.

On Senior Day, it was made extra special by the guests in attendance. Twenty-five of Eifert’s closest family members and friends came to cheer him on one last time. During the team’s Victory March, where players and coaches walk from their pregame Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to Notre Dame Stadium, the Eifert clan held nothing back.

“On the walk, they were the loudest family out there,” Eifert said. “As a walk-on, some of the guys came up to me and were like, ‘Dang, Griff! I know you live close, but you’ve got a lot of family!’ And I’m like, ‘Yep, I’ve got a lot of family.’ They’re very supportive, and I appreciate everything they do for me.”

This appreciation reached a crescendo moments later, when Eifert’s name was announced during the pregame Senior Day festivities, and he ran across the field to embrace his parents to the roar of the crowd. For Greg and Julie, it marked not only the culmination of their son’s collegiate career, but the end of an era.

“Today is just bittersweet for so many reasons,” reflected Julie. “It’s not just the final game for Griff. He’s the youngest of four, so it’s kind of our final tailgate and game watching a son play a sport. And I’m just so proud of Griff. He has such a good heart … and he knows how much he’s loved and how proud we are of him.”

“I’m just proud of how he pretty much takes the bull by the horns and does the right things,” echoed Greg. “He’s always been a leader in everything that he does. It’s just great to see.”

Eifert’s final run out of the tunnel before the game against Wake Forest may have carried added emotions, but it still shared a common thread with all the others: tangible moments woven together into an unforgettable experience.

“It was pretty special,” Eifert said. “Seeing your mom cry is never what you want to see, but that was pretty special running out to them. And then when Our Lady sings before kickoff, that was pretty special. And lastly, the Alma Mater was emotional, as well. Overall, a great day, and I enjoyed everything about it.”

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.