Former Capital High and Montana State great Clay Bignell has been assigned as a defensive graduate assistant football coach for Notre Dame. Bignell, 28, comes to the Irish from Northwestern University in Chicago, where he held the same position for the Wildcats.
"I'll be working with the defensive backs, so this is the third different position on defense I've coached," Bignell said in a phone interview from South Bend, Indiana. "We had our first spring practice today (Wednesday), drills run for four weeks and then our spring game is April 16.
"This is just a great opportunity for me. I had an awesome experience at Northwestern, but the opportunity presented itself here at Notre Dame and it's a great chance to broaden my horizons. I get to stay in my network and meet some new people ... I'm really excited to get started."
Bignell is the second local native to coach football for the Irish, the first being the late Bob Sullivan (1917-2009), who served as an assistant under Frank Leahy in the 1940s. Several ND gridders coached at Mt. Saint Charles/Carroll College after their playing days, most notably Bill Jones and Ed Simonich. John McDonell, a Spokane product who played for Carroll College in the late 1970s, spent some time as an assistant at Notre Dame, as well, from 2002-04.
After a record-breaking career at Capital -- Bignell was the first local athlete to earn a first team All-State double-double, making first team All-State in both basketball and football in the same school years, twice (in both his junior and senior years) -- he went on to become an All-Big Sky linebacker for Montana State. His senior year, he co-captained the Bobcats to the 2011 conference co-championship.
In 2012, with a degree in business management in hand -- he's also one online class away from earning a Master's from Northwestern -- Bignell started his coaching career as a defensive intern for the Montana Western linebackers before returning to Montana State the next year. There, he interned for linebacker coach Kane Ioane. Then came his stint the past two seasons as the defensive line GA for Northwestern.