An Indianapolis native, Kuntz spent the 2008 spring semester back home at Ivy Tech Community College before re-enrolling at Notre Dame over the summer. On Friday, Kuntz talked about how hard it was to be stripped of something that he loved so much and how it made him value things more.
“I was living this one life where everything is great and everybody knows your name and you’re just a part of something great and just having that taken away it was kind of like a whole life change,” he said. “I had to change my attitude, the way I came up to people, the way people looked at me. It was definitely hard but I feel like it’s best and now it’s just good things.”
As one of just two seniors in the two-deep on the defensive line, Kuntz’s experience will be valuable this year to one of the team’s key units. Kuntz started the first 10 games at nose tackle before knee and back injuries forced him out of the team’s final two games.
Kuntz had 42 tackles last year and tied for the team-lead with nine pass deflections. Kuntz’s nine pass breakups were more than any other defensive lineman in the country. With the emergence of sophomore Ian Williams, Kuntz has been shifted to a more natural position at defensive end for the upcoming season.
For Kuntz, it didn’t take long for him to get back into football after missing spring ball.
“For me, it’s shaking the rust off a little bit, just getting back to old form,” he said. “I feel like in the past couple of days, I’ve definitely stepped it up in that concern and used my experience to more of an advantage.”
The senior defensive lineman feels like he’s already back to his old form, but although he was listed as a starter on the pre-camp depth chart, defensive line coach Jappy Oliver was not going to hand Kuntz anything.
“The first couple of days I was kind of still remembering old tricks and old things that I used to do. Coach Oliver has been great helping me with that and having to deal with all those things,” he said. “Oh yeah, I feel like I’m back on the same page just trying to get better everyday and I feel like I’m making a lot of progress.”
Getting back with his teammates came easily for the outspoken Kuntz, who came to camp sporting a fine mullet.
“It wasn’t that much of a challenge getting back into things, the summer, that’s basically what that was for,” he said. “I just feel like we’re really coming together and it’s not just me, it’s everybody. We have really good team chemistry right now.”
The defense as a unit is coming along, according to Kuntz.
“We’re getting a lot better as a defense, we’re starting to get more physical everyday with pads and everybody’s working their butts off,” he said. “I feel like we’re making a lot of progress on both sides of the ball, especially defense.”
As one of the leaders on the defense and the team, Kuntz feels that he can help the younger guys through the difficult early days of camp.
“Just telling them to keep pushing it and pushing it. The harder we work now the easier it gets during the season and just to keep fighting. We’re battling the offense right now, but in the end they’re going to be our teammates and we’re going to go into war with them.”
Emotion has been a theme for this week the Irish, but that it something that has never been a problem for the 6-foot-3, 283-pounder.
“I just try to be as loud as possible and hopefully everybody starts catching on. I’ve probably been celebrating too much, but there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Kuntz was the leader of the attack on defensive coordinator Corwin Brown earlier this week as the Irish celebrated the ‘game-winning’ kick of Brandon Walker twice at the end of practice.
“They said we didn’t get after it enough the first time, so I got a couple of buddies and said let’s go get (Brown),” Kuntz said. “He ran like a little girl, though so that’s what ended up happening.”