BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights native and 2009 graduate of Governor Livingston High School Matthew Tansey always dreamed of attending Notre Dame University.
His mother, Debra Burke, said he is the kind of person who does anything he puts his mind to. He started playing football at a young age, but focused on his ROTC training in college.
One day, Tansey told his parents he was going to try out for the Irish Guard, which are the men who lead the football players onto the field. However, he quickly reconsidered and decided to try out for the team. Burke said she thought it was silly because it was Notre Dame, one of the most prestigious programs in the country, but she supported his decision.
In 2010, he became a valued member of the team.
“I’m still not sure that we believe that it actually happened to us,” she said.
Burke said she never imagined him playing football, but is glad he was able to experience collegiate sports at such a tremendous university. More importantly, he is on the number one ranked team that’s playing for the national championship on Monday Jan.7 against Alabama.
Tansey saw his first football varsity action against Wake Forrest on Senior Day this past November, but he was officially notified by the United States Navy that he will be heading back to Pensacola, Fla. to train as a pilot upon graduation. He is the only player on the Notre Dame roster who is also in the ROTC program.
“It was just unbelievable,” she said about seeing her son on the field. “He walked out of the locker room that night and he was just beaming.”
His parents have attended many of his games and really enjoyed the South Bend experience. Seeing her son being able to full his dream of going to Notre Dame, playing football there and enlisting in the Navy, makes her proud, Burke said.
She said she was a bit nervous about him becoming a pilot, but she understands his desire to serve his country.
“There’s no question in my mind that that’s where his heart is,” she said.