top of page

Sam Hartman's Wake Forest Reunion: Revisiting a Special Relationship

Written by Connor D'Aquila ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter/X:@ConnorDaquilaIT

Photo by The Irish Tribune


Notre Dame had its second bye week of the season ahead of a senior day matchup with Wake Forest. Currently 4-5 and 13th in the ACC, the Demon Deacons do not bring an abundance of excitement with them, aside from one major storyline. How will Sam Hartman look against his former team? It is no secret that Hartman has not looked like himself in recent weeks, but after five years in Winston-Salem, he should know the defense fairly well, and hopefully, he will have a chip on his shoulder. There appears to be little bad blood from either side, but anytime such an integral player leaves a program, it will certainly be talked about. Below, we’ll dive into his journey to Wake Forest, then Notre Dame, and what it means to play them again.





Time at Wake

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sam began his football career in the area, playing at the nearby Davidson Day School. Eventually, he transferred to Oceanside Collegiate Academy near Charleston, South Carolina, somewhere we have seen numerous high-level prospects come out of. However, despite being prolific in his high school career and setting numerous records, Hartman did not get much attention as he went through his recruiting process. According to 247Sports, his only offers were small-time local programs Elon and Charlotte with the lone Power Five program being Wake Forest. Ultimately, the decision made too much sense to turn down. A Carolina kid who spent his free time fishing on the lake, he would only be about an hour from home and was also entering a weak quarterback room. All of this panned out and Sam was able to take the starting job in his very first game at the school. Soon, he would be the face of the program, putting up prolific numbers and leading the Demon Deacons to some of their best seasons ever. In his tenure from 2018 to 2022, they would qualify for bowl games in every season, and in 2021, they had their highest final AP ranking ever at 15th paired with a Gator Bowl win. This was also the year that Hartman took a major step forward as a thrower, ending with 4,228 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.


After 2022, however, which was his fifth year in college, Hartman had only one more season of eligibility and was not seeing his name high on draft boards. Despite being consistently one of the top quarterbacks in the game, scouts were concerned about his ability to handle a pro-style scheme, given the notorious “slow mesh” style at Wake. This offense kept defenses off guard and allowed for big splash plays down the field. At the end of the day, it was a quarterback-friendly system and NFL teams questioned his ability to perform in a more fast-paced system that required more reads. All of this meant that after a number of years in Winston-Salem and a deep allegiance to the program, Sam Hartman made the difficult decision to enter the transfer portal.





Journey to ND

Seeking a more pro-style offense, the Tommy Rees-led Notre Dame system was perfect. Here, he would be able to demonstrate to coaches how his skills translate into a more traditional offense and would hopefully improve his draft stock. While it was initially reported that he entered the portal intending to end up in South Bend, it took a couple of weeks for the decision to be made final. He has since said that he had substantial offers and NIL pushes from SEC and other programs, but that Notre Dame was the place for him. The hype grew in weeks following the announcement, as people saw a talented young offense that now had a polished quarterback to take the reigns. It was initially a camp battle with Tyler Buchner, but Hartman ended that with a solid Blue-Gold Game performance. Buchner would then transfer to Alabama, following Rees, and Sam would be the guy in a Gerad Parker-led offense. He took all the changes in stride and maintained his excitement to be part of the program. At the spring game, I was lucky enough to sit next to two ex-teammates from Wake Forest, who assured me that coming here was quite an adjustment, but he was growing to love it. Since then, his love for the Irish has become clear. Indiana is a long way from North Carolina physically and culturally, but he summed up the transition post-USC, saying “I freaking love the Irish.”


What This Game Means

In recent weeks, the road for Hartman has gotten a bit bumpier, as a regression since OSU has become clear, and we are seeing more and more mistakes. Fans have been quick to put blame on many parts of the program, and there is plenty to go around. Sam took responsibility for the Clemson loss, and we can assume this upcoming game will have a two-fold meaning for him. On one side, it is his last regular season CFB game, and a final chance to prove to everyone just how talented he is. It is also merely an opportunity to bounce back and head into bowl season with a win and a better trajectory for the program. On the flip side, he is playing his former team and will have plenty to prove. Did he make the right decision by leaving Wake? Was he a product of the scheme? Can he take over in big moments? I believe the answer to all of these questions is yes, but this game provides another opportunity to silence the doubt and prove that ND is the place for him. We will certainly see mixed reactions from Demon Deacon fans, but I believe most respect him and his contributions to the program enough to root for him. They may not want him to win, but I don’t believe this should be any hatred-fueled game. Hopefully, we can see Hartman enjoy seeing ex-teammates and coaches while performing well en route to a Notre Dame victory.



Comments


Enjoyed This Article?
Subscribe
For

FREE
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
The Irish Tribune
bottom of page