Jack Coan’s story comes full circle

Quarterback committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame before heading to Wisconsin to play football. Now he’s with the Irish after all.

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Jack Coan was 12-6 in 18 games as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback. He transferred this month to Notre Dame.

Jack Coan was 12-6 in 18 games as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback. He transferred this month to Notre Dame.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Notre Dame and Wisconsin play at Soldier Field on the last Saturday in September, it will mark the first game between the schools in 57 years.

That alone should make for tasty viewing, but now there’s the Jack Coan Factor, too.

The Badgers’ starting quarterback for 18 games in 2018-19, Coan lost his job to redshirt freshman Graham Mertz after having season-ending surgery on his right foot in early October. Two weeks after entering the transfer portal Dec. 20, Coan landed at Notre Dame as a graduate transfer — just as the record-setting Ian Book headed off to pursue a professional career.

Following Book after he went 30-5 with two trips to the College Football Playoff as a starter would be a difficult task for anyone, but Coan’s experience and accuracy give him a chance to make it work.

Coan, a 6-3, 221-pounder, originally committed as a high school freshman to play lacrosse at Notre Dame for longtime coach Kevin Corrigan. Long Island, New York, is known as a lacrosse hotbed far more than it is for producing football talent, but Coan kept getting better at his second sport.

His parents provided inspiration and guidance throughout.

‘‘My mom is the nicest human being you’ll probably ever meet,’’ Coan told the Inland Valley News at the Rose Bowl in January 2020. ‘‘She did so much for me growing up. My dad [owner of Coan’s Landscaping] is by far the hardest worker I’ve ever met and, I think, anyone will ever meet in life. I would put him against anyone to outwork anybody.’’

It was the elder Coan who broke the news via Twitter that his son was giving up his redshirt season to start the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl for Wisconsin at Yankee Stadium. Coan passed for one touchdown and ran for another in a 35-3 victory against Miami in that personal homecoming. 

Raised in Sayville, New York, Coan had a slew of football offers as a late-blooming three-star recruit. He disappointed schools such as Northwestern, Michigan, Boston College, Miami, Louisville, Indiana, Yale and Wake Forest.

Bill Rees, Notre Dame’s director of scouting and the father of Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, was the director of player personnel for Wake Forest when it extended a scholarship offer to Coan five years ago this month. Soon, that trio will get a chance to collaborate after all.

Assuming Coan beats out holdovers Brendon Clark and Drew Pyne and four-star freshman Tyler Buchner, who is expected to be among the early enrollees, he should be a less mobile version of Book.

More game manager than game-changer, Coan ranked 19th in the country in passer rating in 2019, when he threw for 18 touchdowns against only five interceptions. That was five spots ahead of Book and just behind Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Kyle Trask (Florida) and Justin Herbert (Oregon).

Coan outdueled Herbert in their Rose Bowl game in terms of passing yards (186-138), but it took him 35 passes to Herbert’s 20. Wisconsin led midway through the fourth quarter but fell 28-27 when Herbert scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 30-yard scramble.

Unlike Book, Coan isn’t likely to beat anyone with his scrambling ability. He’s a classic pocket passer and one who has shown toughness and a knack for avoiding the big mistake while going 12-6 as the Badgers’ starter.

A finance, investment and banking major at Wisconsin, Coan was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.

If Coan clicks it will mark the second consecutive offseason Notre Dame has worked the transfer portal to great effect. Former Northwestern receiver Ben Skowronek led the 2020 Irish with five touchdown receptions, and former N.C. State cornerback Nick McCloud started all but one game.

Coan will have the experience not to panic if things start slowly for Notre Dame next fall, including that highly anticipated matchup against his old friends from Madison. 

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