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Ben Smith

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Saints ready for walk-on journey

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Bishop Dwenger’s Ryan Watercutter will look to walk on at either IU or Miami (Ohio).

– So now comes signing day, and the most changeless of rituals. Across America, fit young men will sit at tables, mom and dad on either side. They’ll pick up pens. And while video rolls, they’ll carefully sign their names and pull on hats that read Alabama, or Ohio State, or Notre Dame.

Been there, done that, if you’re a young man named Keenan Centlivre.

Oh, not the signing part. That won’t happen for him today. But the hat part …

Well, the Notre Dame hat went on his head years ago, and it’s never really come off. His family has season tickets to Notre Dame football, so he’s been spending his Saturday afternoons in Notre Dame Stadium forever.

The tickets have been in the family since Keenan’s great-grandfather, who lent his money and his name to Keenan Hall.

So when his great-grandson grew to be 6-foot-6 with speed and a soft pair of hands, it was blood more than anything that made him look north and west toward South Bend.

He may not be signing a ride with ND today, but he will be there next fall.

That’s because Centlivre, a Bishop Dwenger wide receiver, chose last summer to commit to the Irish as a preferred walk-on, which means he’ll have to fight his way onto the field and onto scholarship.

Works for him.

“It’s always been in the back of my head and started to become more prevalent as I got closer and closer to college,” Centlivre said this week. “So when the opportunity came, I couldn’t turn it down.”

Neither could Ryan Watercutter, Centlivre’s running buddy at wideout for Dwenger, although their circumstances are different. Though Watercutter caught 64 passes for 1,112 yards and was a linchpin in the defensive backfield to boot for a Dwenger team that reached the state championship game, the scholarship offers never poured in. So his plan now is to be a preferred walk-on at either Miami (Ohio), which might still come through with an offer, or Indiana.

“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about it,” Watercutter says. “But every kid thinks he was under-recruited. So I just have to go in with a strong mindset at any school I go to and use that as motivation, I guess.”

And Centlivre?

His road got considerably longer in the early part of September, when he went down with a broken collarbone while diving for a pass. Two weeks later the surgeon put six screws and a plate in the shoulder, and he spent the rest of the season watching while his teammates came within a point of the state title, losing 28-27 to Columbus East.

“It was really frustrating, but I had to accept that I couldn’t really change anything or do anything but to deal with it,” Centlivre says. “I was fortunate enough to be recognized before any of that happened, so I kind of used what was going to happen next year as a positive note to look forward to so I wouldn’t get down to much.”

So what will happen next year?

Centlivre, who plans on majoring in pre-med, figures coming from Dwenger will play a role in whatever happens, given the Saints – John Goodman, Tyler Eifert, Tony Springmann – who’ve preceded him.

“(Notre Dame) knows that people from Dwenger they’ve had great success with, and they know they’re hard workers,” Centlivre says. “I think that helped me a lot.”

The rest is on him. And, yes, that works for him, too.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.