Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Charlie Weis Gets Notre Dame

One reason so many Irish fans like Charlie Weis is because he "gets Notre Dame." What does that mean? Notre Dame expects a certain amount of class from their coaches. They expect them to be people of strong character who can faithfully represent the University and its values. Charlie Weis gets "it." These two anecdotes illustrate why:

Many in the sports media have told the following story. The AP put this on the wire. The Wednesday before the Washington game, Coach Weis visited 10-year old Montana Mazurkiewicz, a huge Irish fan. In fact, the boy was named after Joe Montana, Weis' college roommate. He was dying of cancer. The coach told stories about his student life at Notre Dame. They talked about his daughter Hannah, who has global developmental delay, and the coach gave him these words of encouragement: "'Live for today for tomorrow is always another day." Finally, Weis asked Montana if there was something he could do for him. The boy asked to call the first play of the Washington game. He called "pass right." Come Saturday, the Irish found themselves backed up on their own 1-yard-line. Any football coach would tell you passing is the worst option in that situation. But Weis said, "This game is for Montana, and the play still stands." There was no "win won for the Gipper" speech. This was not about motivating the team. It was about keeping a promise to tough young boy. Quarterback Brady Quinn completed the pass to Anthony Fasano who hurdled a Husky defender to gain 13 yards and the first down. The boy's mother was grateful and said about Weis, "He's a very neat man. Very compassionate." Montana died the Friday before the game. He saw his play from heaven.

Above the east door of Notre Dame's Sacred Heart Basilica reads the inscription "God, Country, Notre Dame." Charlie Weis understands these priorities. The Irish won their 42nd game in a row against Navy this season. Brady Quinn threw for 284 yards to lead ND to a 42-21 victory. But the most remarkable event happened after the final whistle blew. Normally, the last thing the winning team is concerned about is their opponent, but this time Coach Weis walked with his team in front of the Navy student section. They, along with the rest of the stadium, stood in respectful silence while Navy sang their alma mater. Peter Schroeder, a senior at ND, wrote in his column, "With no time left on the clock and the outcome decided, this respectful gesture wasn't about Navy's football team; it was about Navy. It was a sobering reminder that what we just poured all of our energy into was just a game. Many times that's easy to forget at Notre Dame, where football lies in the hierarchy of priorities somewhere between inhaling and exhaling. While we can spend countless hours worrying about Sagarin rankings, passing efficiency, and Mark May, Navy has bigger fish to fry. We may claim that we must protect this house, but Navy must protect something way bigger." Navy graduate Kevin Filan wrote in a letter to the editor, "Much thanks to you, Coach [Weis], not just for what you have done for Notre Dame Football, but the statement you sent to all Annapolis grads around the world and to the game of college football."

These are just two examples of how Charlie Weis gets Notre Dame.

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