Notre Dame's Farley takes interesting route
His sisters, Joy and Chara, look like supermodels but are really super business women. All three of Notre Dame sophomore safety Matthias Farley's older brothers have overstuffed trophy cases. Timon even played professional basketball in Europe.
"My parents have always been very supportive of whatever we have to do," Matthias Farley said. "My dad always joked around, 'If it's legal and you like it, do it.'"
What the Charlotte, N.C., product is doing these days is as absolutely legal, but just as improbable.
In just his fourth year of organized football, and one year removed from being a scout-team receiver at ND, Farley is the safety net on the nation's 10th-ranked pass defense and the surprise player on the country's surprise team.
The seventh-ranked Irish (5-0) look to continue their ascent from preseason unranked team to BCS title contender Saturday against a 17th-ranked Stanford team (4-1) that's bullied the Irish in their last three meetings.
In their most recent clash -- a 28-14 Cardinal victory in Palo Alto, Calif., last November -- Farley didn't even make the travel squad. He watched the game on TV back in South Bend. Four years ago, he was a soccer star on a bad Charlotte (N.C.) Christian team with absolutely no football aspirations.
Now he's in the thick of Saturday's story line.
"It's a crazy thing to hear or see from the outside," Farley said. "For me, sometimes you've got to take a step back and say, 'Wow, all this has happened in a very short order, but it's also happened for a reason.'
"I don't know exactly what the reason is and what will become of everything, but I know that things that have happened up to this point have led to the situation I'm in now. And I'm just trying to take that and do whatever I can do to the best of my ability."
What that looks like statistically is Farley has nine tackles and no emotional scars since taking over the No. 1 free safety spot from fifth-year senior Jamoris Slaughter just after halftime of ND's breakthrough 20-3 victory over Michigan State on Sept. 15. In that game, Slaughter tore his Achilles tendon, ending his season.
But even for Farley to be the next man in at that point, makes the "Rudy" script look a little flat.
He finally gave football a try in the late spring of his sophomore year after soccer season had ended. Charlotte Christian head football coach Jason Estep and several close friends won him over.
Then he lost them. He showed up in green soccer cleats for his first practice. And that wasn't the worst of it. His movements were beyond awkward as he auditioned first as a wide receiver.
"When I went out for a pass, it looked like I was swimming every time I'd go into a break," he said, "so everybody knew what I was going to do. My arms looked like I was landing jets."
Playing defense came a little more naturally, since Farley's flaw as a soccer player was getting yellow cards for being overly physical. But the growth curve was so slow and painful, Farley's brother, Nathan, had to talk him out of quitting three or four times.
So did Charlotte Christian assistant Eugene Robinson, who refused to give up on his raw pupil. And that is why Farley wears No. 41 today, as a tip of the cap to the former NFL safety who wore that number during his 15-year pro career.
By the end of his first full season of football, Farley's junior year, there was a buzz about his potential in his new sport. North Carolina, N.C. State, Wisconsin and UCLA all offered scholarships before Notre Dame jumped in the spring of Farley's junior year.
At the time, his knowledge of Notre Dame football was limited to Knute Rockne, the Four Horseman and Rudy, but he knew all about the academic reputation. And by the end of April 2010, he committed to play at ND.