“I'm going to be a fifth-year senior and I still get the cold chills,” Anello said of his recent return to the Notre Dame campus. “It's unbelievable. (Notre Dame) is truly a special place.”
Perhaps one day a movie could be made depicting Anello's time at Notre Dame, but don't consider this story a remake of the famous Notre Dame-based movie “Rudy.”
“Rudy” was based on a walk-on football player from a Chicago suburb who fulfills his dream of suiting up for the Irish.
Anello fits all those criteria.
However, that would be where the similarities cease. In the movie, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the lead character, neither excelled academically nor on the football field, but Anello has done both.
The right cornerback from Orland Park, Ill., first joined the Irish team as a walk-on sophomore (2006) and did not see any game action. However, his impact in practice as a junior (2007) competing for time on the punt coverage squad caught the eyes of the Notre Dame coaches and he was quickly inserted into the games. He served as the “gunner” with that group for eight games and he didn't waste the opportunity, as he made a tackle against Michigan on his second career play.
“Everyone on this team wants to play special teams,” Anello said. “I've had freshmen come up to me and ask ‘What do I have to do to get on special teams,' and I love that.”
Last fall, Anello had a breakout season, at least as much of one as a third-string nonscholarship cornerback who is 180 pounds soaking wet can have. He played in Notre Dame's first 12 games before suffering a broken leg - on a play in which he made the tackle no less - against Southern Cal. On the 72 returns (22 punt and 50 kickoff) by Irish opponents that Anello lined up on, he made tackles on 23 of those. In a testament to his accomplishments, he has surprisingly been named to the 2009 Ronnie Lott Award preseason watch list, which goes to the nation's top defensive back.
Since his injury, it has been a trying time physically for Anello over the past eight months. After healing his tibia, Anello developed problems with his ankle.
“I was really dealing with a lot of ankle problems after I had gotten (medical) clearance (to work out),” Anello said. “I'd get up every morning and (wonder) ‘How much is it going to hurt this morning? Oh, that much, huh?'”
However, with fall camp under way this week, Anello feels that he is close to returning to top form.
“About a month ago, it just started to get better and better,” Anello said. “I don't even notice my ankle problems at all; my leg I don't notice at all. I'd say my speed is maybe a half-step slower right now. But I've got another month to get that step faster that I promised myself.”
If regaining that step is based on determination and work ethic, don't question if Anello can accomplish it.
This is a guy who graduated with a degree in finance in 3 1/2 years and maintained a 3.937 grade-point average while doing so. He has since taken graduate-level courses while still lining up for coach Charlie Weis, and over the past two summers, Anello has served internships, this year with a venture capital firm in Boston.
This fall he is still challenging himself in the classroom, as he is enrolled in a hedge-fund analysis course, as well as taking an entrepreneur course. But life is not all work and no play for Anello as he is also taking a credit-hour course in guitar.
“I've put in my time, I graduated in 3 1/2 years,” Anello said. “I figured, ‘Why not have a little fun with this?' So I'm taking that as sort of a fun class.”