SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Matthias Farley has been playing football for most of his life. The thing is, though, he played what most of the world knows as football until his junior year of high school, when he picked up the American version of the game.
On Saturday, he'll make his first start at safety for Notre Dame, getting the nod with veteran Jamoris Slaughter lost for the year after tearing his Achilles' tendon last week against Michigan State.
Farley played wide receiver and safety during his final two high school years in North Carolina, earning a three-star rating from Rivals and offers from schools such as Illinois, North Carolina, UCLA and Wisconsin. He was designated as a wide receiver his freshman year at Notre Dame, but didn't play.
In high school, Farley's transition from the pitch to the gridiron didn't go smoothly at first.
"I don't know if I didn't love it at first, or if I wasn't liking the fact that I wasn't good at it and had to learn everything, be the guy -- no, Farley, do this, no, Farley, do that -- I didn't like that aspect of it, because in soccer I was pretty good, so they weren't do this do that, do this," he explained. "In football, it was like an everyday 'you're doing it wrong.'"
But Farley has been doing enough right for Notre Dame this year, appearing in all three of the team's games and recording six tackles. With Slaughter out, Farley will take on an increased role, and it's one his coach thinks he can handle.
"You lose a Jamoris Slaughter, you're losing an A player," coach Brian Kelly said. "Matthias is certainly not at the level yet of a Jamoris Slaughter. He's got to continue to develop. But we have a lot of confidence and trust in him. He'll be getting a lot of work back there."
Senior Zeke Motta has helped, as Farley described his fellow safety's experience and knowledge as a "huge asset" whenever he needs a question answered. Motta learned from former Irish safety Harrison Smith, who was a first-round pick of the Vikings in April, and has tried to apply the dynamic between he and Smith to he and Farley.
"It's a lot like how Harry was to me in kind of trying to bring him along to communicate, be on the same page, watch film, anticipate," Motta said. "All those things that really keep you confident on the field and keep your composure. I think all those things are working well right now, and our preparation has been excellent up to this point."
While Notre Dame is led by plenty of veterans, its 3-0 start has been just as much a product of some success by the team's inexperienced youth. Kelly and his coach staff have put plenty of confidence into the likes of Everett Golson, KeiVarae Russell, Elijiah Shumate, and so on down the line. Farley's just the latest greenhorn to take on a larger role in Notre Dmae's plans.
"It's given me a lot of confidence just knowing I can do it and compete on this level," Farley said of the playing time he has and will receive. "It's inspired me to work even harder, especially now with the role I'm in, but even before Jamoris went down it was encouraging when the coaches had the trust in me to put me in the games and to build on that trust and continue to do well."