"Sometimes you are making someone's day, year or life"
When interviewing for an internship in the spring of 2014, current Notre Dame senior John Doran had a problem—he was hoping to become Notre Dame's leprechaun, so he didn't want to shave his beard just a week before the tryout.
Doran not only got the internship but also won the competition to become Notre Dame's leprechaun, becoming the first junior to hold the post since 1999. Despite his experience last year, the rules required Doran to go through the tryout process again.
"They're looking for someone that they can trust is number one," Doran said. "I don't want to sound like I'm making it too profound, but there's more to it than just running around on the field.
"They want somebody that can speak in public a lot … [because even though] people aren't going someplace to hear you speak necessarily, they still want someone who isn't going to be awkward.
"[Finally], you have to be genuinely excited about what you're doing—I think people would easily be able to tell if you were faking it. I'm really, really passionate about Notre Dame athletics,"
For Doran, securing the position was no cakewalk. The tryout consisted of a slew of events designed to make the prospective leprechauns feel uncomfortable and see how they react, from singing the Notre Dame fight song in front of a group of 60 plus (who had been instructed not to respond) to holding a mock pep rally for a women's Final Four basketball game where some cheerleaders posed as boisterous Connecticut fans.
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Unlike most schools where the mascot wears a suit and is relatively unknown, the Notre Dame leprechaun has the pressure (or benefit, depending on how you look at it) of everyone knowing who he is.
"I get that people don't want pictures with John Doran, they want pictures with the leprechaun," Doran said. "But the cool thing about it is you are sometimes making someone's day, year, life. When you walk around campus on a game day and you see people that it's literally their once in a lifetime dream to get to Notre Dame to see a game."
Although Doran says game days can get excruciatingly long, he said the perks outweigh any negatives about being Notre Dame's leprechaun. Doran has spent a considerable amount of time with Regis Philbin, and was involved in Lee Corso's Notre Dame selection on College GameDay when the Irish played at Clemson October 3rd. Doran said his opportunity to sit on the GameDay bus and chat with its stars during breaks was a highlight, but it may not rival the famous people he meets on the sideline during games.
"I got a picture with Ken Griffey Jr., and I'm pretty sure he was the one who asked for a picture with me," Doran said.
After football season is over, Doran will work a majority of the men's basketball games as well as a handful of women's games. Come April, however, he will run the leprechaun tryouts to find his replacement, and he'll be clean-shaven for the first time in two years.
"It's like the greatest job ever," Doran said. "There's a lot of cool access that I know I'll never have again in my life."
Brian Plamondon is SI's campus correspondent for the University of Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter.