Notre Dame co-captain Brian Tevlin fires up "Scotland the Brave" on his bagpipes before Saturday's NCAA quarterfinal against Johns Hopkins.

Pipe Dreams: How a Notre Dame Tradition Bonds Brian Tevlin with His Late Brother

THE BLACKWOOD PIPES PROTRUDE FROM A VELVET POUCH, held in alignment by green silk cords with tassels as Brian Tevlin hoists the bass drone over his left shoulder and puffs into the blow stick. The air leaves his lungs and inflates the bag to reveal a Celtic cross sewn into the fabric. An A-sharp minor tonic fills the concrete aperture of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The bagpipes that once belonged to a diehard Notre Dame football fan now accompany the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team. Alongside Ross Burgmaster, Tevlin belts out “Scotland the Brave,” moving his fingers along the chanter and marching onto the turf while teammates sprint past them in a pre-game tradition that dates back to 1996.

In this moment, with more than 20 members of his proud Irish Catholic family among the 13,000-plus fans in Annapolis for the NCAA quarterfinals, Tevlin feels especially connected to his late brother, Brendan.

“I was looking back at some messages the other day,” he said earlier in the week in an interview with USA Lacrosse Magazine, “appreciating how full circle it came and the belief he had in me to make it to this level before I even had it in myself.”

“My brother has shaped my life and propelled me into this position.”

BRENDAN TEVLIN DIED JUNE 25, 2014, when a self-proclaimed jihadist shot and killed him through the passenger window of his Jeep Liberty while he was stopped at a traffic light in West Orange, New Jersey. He was 19, his life cut tragically short by a random, senseless act of terror.

More than 1,000 mourners attended the funeral at St. Philomena Roman Catholic Church in Livingston, the Tevlins’ hometown.

The service ended in a blaring rendition of “Amazing Grace” performed by the Essex Shillelagh Pipes and Drums — a group for which both Tevlin boys piped and their father, Michael, plays the bass drum.

“The set that I play, they’re his bagpipes,” Tevlin said. “He was much better than I was.”

The pipes are calling once again for third-seeded Notre Dame, which advanced to championship weekend for the first time since 2015 with a 12-9 victory over Johns Hopkins and will play second-seeded Virginia in the NCAA semifinals Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (2:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN2).

The Fighting Irish (12-2) have made it this far thanks in no small part to Tevlin, a graduate transfer from Yale who has played every position on the field except goalie. He anchors the second midfield, patrols the wing on faceoffs, plays short-stick defense and even wields a long pole for Notre Dame’s man-down unit.

A USA Lacrosse Magazine second-team All-American, Tevlin’s Swiss Army-knife skillset and GPS-proven work rate made him an attractive professional lacrosse prospect. The Redwoods selected him No. 10 overall in the Premier Lacrosse League College Draft two weeks ago.

When Tevlin got to South Bend in the fall, however, he just wanted to blend in. He had heard from his high school teammate, Griffin Westlin, just how tight knit this team was, especially the senior leadership group. They experienced the pains of the pandemic together and were galvanized by the last year’s notorious NCAA tournament snub. They embodied the Fighting Irish ethos of egoless clarity. They knew their purpose.

They also knew the value Tevlin brought to the locker room with what he has experienced in lacrosse — including an NCAA championship and two-year captaincy at Yale — and life.

Tevlin never asked for the role of co-captain. Six weeks into knowing him, his new teammates insisted upon it.

“He didn't come in here and try to overstep the seniors and fifth years and say, 'Well, I was captain at my previous school, I’m the king of the locker room.’ He came in very unassuming,” senior co-captain and All-American goalie Liam Entenmann said. “At the same time, he taught the seniors and fifth years how to operate and get to the places that he’s been.”

When prompted this spring to speak to the team, the 24-year-old graduate student with a Wall Street job and PLL roster spot waiting for him held nothing back. “I took that opportunity to share my story,” Tevlin said. “About how my brother has shaped my life and propelled me into this position.”

It went something like this:

Six months before he died, Brendan Tevlin sent his brother the link to a trailer for a Notre Dame lacrosse documentary filmed during a fall trip to Colorado. Brian was a freshman at Seton Hall Prep and already receiving attention from college coaches. Brendan was a freshman at the University of Richmond, a school that had just added a Division I program.

Curious about following in his brother’s footsteps, Brian Tevlin thought about reaching out to Richmond. Brendan implored him to aim higher.

“Waiting on that Notre Dame call,” he texted.

The only suitable alternative would be an Ivy League school. The brothers agreed on that.

Thanks to the additional eligibility afforded to student-athletes affected by the pandemic, Tevlin wound up exploring both paths, fulfilling the hopes his brother had for him.

“He loved lacrosse. He loved watching me,” said Tevlin, who also has an older sister, Michaela, and younger brother, Sean. “He was one of my biggest supporters, setting my sights for myself at the highest level before I even knew it was possible.”

Tevlin never has to look far to think of his brother, who spent summers surfing on the Jersey Shore and whose mantra of “good vibes and easy living” inspired the name of a charitable foundation established in his memory. He wears a red and blue wristband with the expression and the initials “BPT” inscribed on it.

The fields at Oakner Sports Complex in Livingston are named after him, as is Brendan P. Tevlin Memorial Field at Seton Hall Prep, where his initials are stitched into the midfield logo encircled by the school’s Norman French and Old English motto, “Hazard Zet Forward.”

Whatever the peril, ever forward.

MICHAEL TEVLIN BELIEVES BRENDAN SAVED A LIFE. He said so in a 2014 interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Sustern after police identified his killer as Ali Muhammad Brown, an ISIS sympathizer now serving life in prison after confessing to the murder of Tevlin and three other men earlier that year in Seattle.

“If it wasn’t Brendan, it was going to be somebody else,” Michael Tevlin said. “So in some way, Brendan saved somebody’s life because somebody was dying that night.”

The Good Vibes & Easy Living Foundation was founded in 2017 and runs the annual Brendan Tevlin Lacrosse Festival, the proceeds for which support several charities the family chose as a reflection of his community interests.

“It was a violent act, at a time in this country when we were still trying to figure out where the next attacks were coming from. We were attacked,” said Dave Giarrusso, a history teacher and the former lacrosse coach at Seton Hall Prep. “The reaction of the Tevlin family has been nothing but inspirational, to use their faith and choose [to see] the good and not the bad.”

Brian Tevlin believes he saved a life, too. Inspired not only by his brother’s example but by his best friend’s mother — a leukemia survivor — Tevlin joined the Be the Match bone marrow registry his junior year of high school.

Only 1 in 540 potential donors qualify as matches for a recipient in need of a transplant. Tevlin found out in November 2018 he was the match for a 50-year-old leukemia patient.

The timing wasn’t ideal. Tevlin had appeared in every game as a freshman midfielder at Yale and scored in the Bulldogs’ NCAA championship game win over Duke the previous spring. He was preparing to take on a more prominent role the upcoming year.

Instead of a blood transfusion, his donation would require invasive surgery in the middle of the season. Surgeons used needles to enter his pelvic bone and extract bone marrow.

“There’ll be more games, more lacrosse to be played,” Tevlin said. “But having the ability to help a family out, you’ve got to put yourself in those shoes at that point.”

Typical recovery is three weeks. Tevlin needed only one. He missed two games but still finished with career highs of 14 goals and 21 assists as Yale made it back to the NCAA championship game, falling just short of a second straight national title. He has not attempted to connect with his recipient.

“I don’t want to know,” he said. “In my mind, everything went perfectly and gave him more life. He had more time with his family.”

The bagpipes Brian Tevlin plays to lead Notre Dame onto the field belonged to his late brother, Brendan.

THERE WAS MORE LACROSSE TO BE PLAYED UNTIL THERE WASN’T. No one could have foreseen what happened the next year, when a pandemic swept across the globe and led to the cancelation of the 2020 season. Nor in 2021, when the Ivy League was the only Division I conference to bench spring sports for a second year.

Yale and the rest of the Ivy League came back with a vengeance in 2022. Six teams advanced to the NCAA tournament. Princeton eliminated Yale in the quarterfinals, after which Tevlin and his roommate, All-American defenseman Chris Fake, set about deciding what to do in 2023.

They were a package deal, of sorts. Tevlin had a job lined up at Barclays Investment Bank, where he has interned as a summer analyst the last three years.

“We were both making plans to move on and figure out the working world. It just kind of became like, ‘Why not?’ Why not use the years you have? We worked so hard for four years and got two taken away from us,” Tevlin said. “We just wanted to make sure we retained all the opportunities we could.”

Notre Dame emerged quickly as the favorite. Especially for Tevlin, whose confidence grew last summer while competing alongside several pros for the U.S. Sixes team at The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. One of his first moves as Fighting Irish co-captain was to organize an intra-squad Sixes tournament in the fall.

Imagine Pat Kavanagh torching short sticks for an entire game and locking up opponents on defense. It was fun to watch.

“He’s got those natural tendencies as a leader. Our guys recognized that,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said of Tevlin. “He and Chris Fake were all-in as teammates first.”

Notre Dame has another tradition. Each game week, a senior or graduate student delivers a speech to the team. This year’s theme was, “What’s Your Why?”

Tevlin needed only to look at the initials on his wristband and the bagpipes near his locker to find his answer.

“It’s something I’ll speak about when asked and I love sharing, but you don’t always find time to bring it up or offer as a piece of advice,” Tevlin said. “In moments like that, it’s a great way to drive home the importance of appreciating everything we have right here and not taking the moments for granted.”