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Sports Saturday

What a coincidence for Irish QB Jack Coan

After choosing to play quarterback at Wisconsin instead of lacrosse at Notre Dame, look where Coan is now.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin
Former Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan throws a pass against Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif.
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jack Coan has fond memories of rooting for Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen as a young Notre Dame football fan, but it was lacrosse that seemed to be his ticket out of Long

Island, New York.

‘‘That’s sort of the hotbed for lacrosse,’’ Coan said during a recent break from his first spring practice as a Notre Dame quarterback. ‘‘There’s obviously not many Division I football players that ever come out of there. So growing up, I definitely thought

lacrosse was going to be my future.’’

Coan, in fact, initially committed to play

lacrosse for the Irish and longtime coach Kevin Corrigan. That decision came the summer after Coan’s freshman year of high school.

‘‘I played with all the travel teams in the summer and did all the showcases,’’ Coan said. ‘‘But, honestly, once I got my first Divi-

sion I football offer, I knew it was pretty much over. Football was my first true love. I knew that’s always what I wanted to do.’’

Coan, a 6-3, 221-pound product of Sayville, New York, eventually signed with Wisconsin, spurning schools such as Michigan, Northwestern, Indiana, Miami, Louisville and Boston College.

Notre Dame, however, never offered Coan a chance to play football. The Irish already had Brandon Wimbush and 2016 signee Ian Book on campus.

‘‘Growing up, I was a Notre Dame fan,’’ Coan said. ‘‘I was committed here for

lacrosse, but I think a main reason for that was I wanted to come here and watch some football games.’’

Coan went on to make 18 starts in 2018-19 for the Badgers, including a one-point loss to Justin Herbert and Oregon in the 2020 Rose Bowl, but he ultimately lost his starting job to redshirt freshman Graham Mertz after

having season-ending surgery on his right foot six months ago.

When the Irish expressed interest in Coan after he put his name in the transfer portal in December, he was thrilled.

‘‘It was pretty cool how it worked out,’’ Coan said. ‘‘Everything came full circle, and I was able to come here. But coming out of high school, I didn’t have an offer here. If I did, there would have been a good chance I would have come here, but I didn’t.’’

Even with Book preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft after going 30-5 as a three-year starter, Coan remains in prove-it mode when it comes to the Irish coaching staff. He is splitting first-team reps this spring with lightly used holdover Drew Pyne, and the fan base is salivating not over Coan but over a Blue-Gold Game look at early enrollee

Tyler Buchner, the dual-threat high school star from Southern California.

While Book’s mobility was a huge part of his success, Coan was mostly a pocket passer at Wisconsin. That could change if he wins the job, as expected, even coming off his surgery.

‘‘We’re not afraid to run Jack,’’ Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘He is a better athlete than people have given him credit for. Maybe he hasn’t been discredited; maybe that’s not fair to say. But he’s a good athlete. He runs well, he’s big, he’s strong.’’

Those who watched him play lacrosse as a teen prodigy could attest to that.’’

‘‘I think [lacrosse] has helped a lot as a quarterback,’’ Coan said, ‘‘just as far as agility and conditioning and scrambling. One thing with lacrosse is making moves but still keeping your eyes down the field and trying to find open guys. It just works on your athleticism and vision.’’

By the time the Irish face Wisconsin on Sept. 25 at Soldier Field, Coan might be heading into his fourth start. He hopes to show he can be more than just a caretaker for an offense that should feature tight end Michael Mayer and running back Kyren Williams.

A rebuilt offensive line that returns only one starter could put a premium on quarterback quickness.

‘‘I think running is a part of my game that I can use when I need to,’’ Coan said. ‘‘When I was at Wisconsin, I’d rather hand the ball off to Jonathan Taylor than me run the ball. I’m excited to definitely use my legs a little bit here. I feel like I’m more athletic than probably a lot of people think.’’