I had no choice but to love Notre Dame football. Ever since I can remember Notre Dame football has been a part of my life. From learning my first colorful word at the tender age of three during the Notre Dame/USC game on a Thanksgiving weekend spent at my grandparents house, to making the annual pilgrimage to Notre Dame to spend a football weekend with my Dad’s college roommate and his family, Notre Dame football has always been an integral part of my life.
Notre Dame football to me is a symbol of excellence. In the fall of 1988 when I sent in my application to Notre Dame, I watched the football team go 12-0 and win the national title. When I first stepped on campus as a freshman in the fall of 1989 the football team was ranked number one. The number one sign proudly lit on top of Grace Hall. I didn’t see a home loss until the last game of my sophomore year, at which point we all looked at each other and say, ‘What do we do now?” Losing was not in our vocabulary and winning was something that we just assumed would happen every Saturday. That was Notre Dame football. In retrospect, we had no idea how fortunate we were, just ask any student who attended Notre Dame during the Gerry Faust or Bob Davie eras.
Lou Holtz continually reinforced these values in us, any chance he could get. Not only with the football team behind closed doors but with the student body as well. He had an informal meet and greet with the women of my dorm, Siegfried Hall, in which he gave us his entire litany Lou Hotlz-isms. My favorite: “WIN: What’s Important Now.” He not only motivated us to do our best and treat others the way we would want to be treated ourselves, but he made sure that we knew if we needed anything, anything, his door was always open. As he repeatedly told his players, “give me four years and I’ll give you forty.” He truly cared for each and every one of us as if we were his own children.
My senior year at Notre Dame my dorm flag football team, the Siegfried Slammers, got the opportunity to go to the interhall championship game, which was played in Notre Dame stadium the day after the incredible “Snow Bowl” between Notre Dame and Penn State in 1992. My parents happened to be on campus that weekend for the Penn State game and got to watch me play on Sunday in Notre Dame stadium. We won the game, which gave us the opportunity to purchase letterman jackets identical to those worn by the football team, and my Dad captured the entire game on film including his baby sacking the quarterback.
Flash forward to 2011. I am contacted by an advertising agency on Twitter who was working on a contest sponsored by Volvo and the Big East Conference to determine the “Biggest Fan of the Big East Conference.” I am selected along with 15 other alumni writers representing the 16 schools in the Big East Conference, competing for the title of Biggest Fan. Being that basketball is not really my forte, I had to dig inward a bit for this contest. After eight writing assignments, a trip to New York City for media day, a trip to my alma mater for the Notre Dame-Syracuse match up and endless self promotion via social media I rose to the top and was crowned the “Biggest Fan of the Big East Conference.” In all honesty, I never expected to win this contest, but I guess the more I think about it losing really is not in my vocabulary. If you’re going to do something, give it your all and shoot for the top.
Shortly after the contest, I was having a phone conversation with Oscar McBride. After a bit of catching up we ended up in a conversation about Notre Dame, which is nothing out of the ordinary for me. I was telling Oscar how, through all of my Notre Dame writing and social media interactions, I feel as though I am constantly defending the university. People are so quick to find the shortcomings of the University and those associated with it, and I really wanted to do something that would showcase all of the positive things that emerge from our lady’s university. And that is how this book took shape. My first interview was with Oscar McBride. It was more like two friends catching up, but it was a wonderful walk down memory lane with Oscar and a discovery of how Notre Dame helped shape him into the man he is today. As I completed each interview, I discovered a similar theme. Even though we all came to Notre Dame from vastly different backgrounds we all had similar experiences and we all credit our time at Notre Dame with playing a huge role in molding us into the people we are today.
I hope you enjoy my journey through the lives of these loyal sons of Our Lady’s university and the stories they tell. There are so many stories still yet to be told, this book will only touch the surface and but I look forward to continuing the journey and sharing all of the remarkable stories of Her loyal sons.