By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND -- Mike Anello doesn't feel like the "cult hero" Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis says he is.
"It's a normal life for me," he said.
That's if normal is living your dream by playing football for Notre Dame, going from unknown walk-on to key special teams contributor in one year. Despite his success, Anello has been stopped by security at Notre Dame Stadium because they don't believe he's a player and walks past a crowd of fans unnoticed after a game -- even though those same fans go crazy when he makes a play.
Explaining the confusion, Anello said, "I look like every other guy on campus."
Except for on Saturday. That's when the 5-10, 189-pound gunner on the punt team and a member of the kickoff team races down the field and makes things happen. He had four tackles in the opener against San Diego State, two inside the 20-yard line. Against Michigan on Saturday he had three tackles, recovered the fumble on the kickoff to help the Irish jump to a 14-0 lead, almost got another fumble and forced a fumble on a kickoff in the fourth quarter.
Not bad for a former walk-on.
Anello still finds it surreal that he's playing for the Irish. His primary sport at Carl Sandburg High School in Chicago suburb Orland Park, Ill., was wrestling. He didn't even play football his junior year.
He returned to football his senior year and was elected captain for eight of 12 games. He decided to try out at Notre Dame as a walk-on. He didn't play as a freshman because at Notre Dame walk-ons have to go through a spring tryout before they are allowed on the field.
He practiced with the team his sophomore year, but never dressed for a game. Coaches began noticing him. Then early in his junior year, Weis noticed that Anello was a nuisance to the regular punt return squad.
During practice before the Michigan game last year he heard Weis bellow: "Where the heck is Anello at?"
"I was like, 'Oh, what did I do wrong here.' He's like, 'Anello get on this line. Because you're going to Michigan this week and you might be running down the field."
Anello didn't call anyone to let them know he might be playing because he didn't believe it.
He barely missed making the tackle his first time on the field, and on his next chance he made the tackle.
"From then on out I've been starting at gunner," Anello said.
Hmm. A walk-on at Notre Dame, dreams of getting on the field, works hard, finally gets his chance and makes good. Sounds a little like a movie script doesn't it?
Only Anello is out-Rudying Rudy. The move "Rudy" was about Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger getting on the field for the final 27 seconds of his final game at Notre Dame in 1975. Anello's story goes further. He not only gets on the field, he got a scholarship. Funnier still, he knows Ruettiger's nephew Daniel, whom he wrestled against regularly in high school.
Anello wore No. 36 for his first game, then he was switched for the rest of the season to No. 45 -- the same number Ruettiger wore. He called his old wrestling friend right after he was given the number.
"I called him and told him, 'You're never going to believe this,"' he said.
Weis said it's not hard to explain why Anello is getting on the field.
"Give me a bunch of Mike Anellos on special teams that run like that and show heart," Weis said. "And he doesn't just show heart; he's a playmaker. I'll take a bunch of guys like him."