Mary Forr's story is so good it could be a movie - if it wasn't already a major motion picture.
Similar to the tale of "Rudy," Forr always dreamt of playing at Notre Dame, but instead of a play like her football counterpart, Forr has gotten the chance to spend an entire season with the Irish.
After three years of being in and out of Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw's office between summer workouts and recreation basketball games in which she was the only girl, Forr was finally added to the Irish's official roster just before her senior year.
BG graduate Mary Forr is full of smiles while being a part of the Notre Dame team.
"The first [preseason] game was on my birthday against Michigan Tech [Nov. 3], and we were killing them," Forr said. "I was sitting on the end of the bench shaking while I was thinking about getting in.
"I started crying at the scorers' table after Coach McGraw called my name, and once I got in the game I couldn't stop smiling. Something I dreamed about since I started playing basketball had come true. It couldn't have been a better birthday."
Off to Notre Dame
The Mary Forr file
Class: Notre Dame senior
High School: Bishop Guilfoyle
Birthdate: Nov. 3, 1988
Personal data: Youngest of three children (older sister Marita and older brother Tommy, a 2007 Notre Dame graduate) born to Patricia and R. Thomas Forr Jr. ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters as a double major in political science and philosophy ... Worked three summers at Helen Diller Home for the Blind and can read grade one braille ... Spent time as basketball coach for St. Joseph County (Ind.) Special Olympics.
That dream existed long before Forr helped Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic win the PIAA Class A girls state championship in 2007, her senior season as a Lady Marauder.
Forr averaged 17 points per game and was named to the first-team all-state squad, but according to Forr, the only scholarship offers that came were from some Division II schools interested in her tennis skills.
Forr opted to go to Notre Dame just as her brother Tommy, a 2007 graduate, had done before her.
"I knew I wanted to try [to make the basketball team]," Forr said. "I didn't know if I would ever get a chance to. I didn't know if I would ever make it, but it has been a dream of mine since I was 8 years old."
Forr's dream came just about as close to reality as she could imagine during her freshman year. The 5-foot-11 forward joined the Notre Dame "Sixth Man Team," which practiced against players on the Irish's official roster.
In one of her first practices with the team, Forr got to meet one of the players she looked at as a role model while developing her basketball skills.
"I played on the practice team my freshman year," Forr said. "I'll never forget the first day of practice, being so excited to compete against these girls. One day, Ruth Riley came to practice. She was a childhood hero of mine, and I got to be teammates with her on the practice team."
Riley was named the NCAA Tournament championship game's most valuable player when the Irish won it in 2001 after making the game-winning free throws against Purdue in the final seconds. Riley went on to win a WNBA title with the Detroit Shock and was named the WNBA finals MVP.
Following her time on the practice squad, Forr did not disappear off McGraw's radar.
"She was always around, coming in the office, wanting to play pickup with the team," McGraw said. "Her relentless interest in the team made me feel like she'd make a positive impact on us."
Still, Notre Dame was a national powerhouse in NCAA women's basketball, and a spot on the team was not easy to come by.
Forr began an extensive recreation sports career at Notre Dame soon after her time with the "Sixth Man Team."
She won a total of 11 team/individual intramural championships and was named the Notre Dame RecSports Female Athlete of the Year in 2009.
"From the very first day I got to Notre Dame, I started playing at the recreation center," Forr said. "There are about 30 guys who would let me play every day, and I was always the only girl, but playing with those guys helped me a lot.
"They would notice things in pick-up, and they even wrote letters to Coach McGraw asking if I could try out for the team. They kept my basketball skills up."
The letters did not go without notice.
"Coaches gave me a workout packet, which I did every day for a couple hours a day during the summer to focus on my basketball skills," Forr said.
Finally, prior to her senior year, Forr attended her first official tryout for the Notre Dame women's basketball team.
"In my first tryout last spring with 25 or 30 girls, we did some drills and played against the team," Forr said. "Then we had the Bookstore Tournament, and Coach McGraw came and saw me play there."
The tournament, officially named the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore Basketball Tournament, is no ordinary playground recreation game. Held each spring, it is the largest outdoor five-on-five basketball tournament in the world, attracting nearly 700 teams last season.
"We had a callback after the tournament where there were six of us in the fall, and we came in a day early and learned the plays," Forr said. "After that, we practiced with the team two days in a row. Then they cut it that weekend to two of us.
"They told us they'd be taking one for sure and maybe two. We had another practice that Monday, and Veronica Badway and I both made the team."
Like her childhood hero Riley, Forr could now call herself an official member of her favorite team, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
"I was just shocked I made the team and very, very grateful," Forr said. "I called my mom and my brother. I was crying from being so excited."
Dream come true
The thrills from Forr's first preseason game were not the end of her ride. Despite being one of the final players off the bench, she scored six points in a little less than 10 minutes in her first official game, a 99-48 victory over New Hampshire.
"I'm just thrilled to be here; I love being on the team," Forr said. "It's challenging both physically and mentally, but it's a challenge I'm excited to meet each day. My teammates are a great group of girls who have become really close and my friends. They've taught me so much as well."
Though most of Forr's playing time has come with the game already decided, McGraw said she's done plenty for the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish.
"Her personality is incredibly upbeat and positive, she's a team player and she's added a lot to team chemistry," McGraw said. "The girls love being around her. They can always count on her being the first to give them a high-five.
"She's a really hard worker, she gives 100 percent and she knows exactly where she's supposed to be. The crowd loves her when she gets in games, because she's really active in the community. I'm so happy that she's been able to join us."
On Jan. 15, Notre Dame traveled to Pittsburgh, and plenty of Forr's supporters made the trip to see her in action.
"A bus came up from Altoona with my high school coaches," Forr said. "They all came to see me, and they all helped me work hard and have motivated me over the years.
"It was great to be able to play in front of them. Even my grade school coaches made the trip up, and it meant a lot to see all of them there."
Forr didn't let her audience down, scoring five points and pulling down two rebounds during an 82-50 Irish victory over the Panthers.
Saturday, Forr was honored along with fellow seniors Brittany Mallory, Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters during the Irish's senior night against Cincinnati. Forr made her first career start, playing 15 minutes and scoring two points in a 66-48 victory.
With one regular season game remaining tonight at DePaul, Forr has played in 18 games for 93 minutes, scored 29 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out three assists and recorded two blocks.
"Everyone on the team feels good for her when she scores, because she has a big smile on her face," McGraw said. "She's enjoying the chance she's getting, and it makes you feel good watching her and makes you realize that's what college athletics should be about."
Following the Big East tournament, Notre Dame will almost assuredly be selected to the NCAA Tournament as a high seed.
"I don't know if I can really explain what [the NCAA Tournament] will feel like," Forr said. "We walked onto UConn's court [recently]. I walked on that court, then I realized, 'we're playing UConn.' I can only imagine what playing the the NCAA tournament could be like.
"Last year at this time, I was doing drills every day praying that I got a chance to be on the team. Now I'm actually here, and it seems like a dream."
A few months from now, Forr will graduate as a double major in political science and psychology and likely continue helping the less fortunate. During her time at Notre Dame, Forr worked at the Helen Diller Home for the Blind and also spent time as a coach in the Special Olympics program.
Yet, with all she gives back, Forr credits those around her for helping her succeed.
"I kept asking for a chance," Forr said. "You have to keep working hard on your own, and be grateful that God has given you the ability to work that hard and be thankful for the people God has given around you to keep up your dream. I would have given up without them."