Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best of 2012: Notre Dame Style

[Photo: Notre Dame and Stanford squared off in 2012 in a battle that will not soon be forgotten. Photo courtesy of Troy Breidenbach Photography.]

[] It has been a quite a year for Notre Dame fans. From a preseason team that showed a fair amount of potential to a Cinderella year that has the Irish sitting pretty at 12-0 and headed to the national title game, here are the Top 10 Notre Dame stories brought to you by NoCoastBias in 2012.

10. 2012 Notre Dame Football Predictions

The captains have been chosen, the game plan has been set, and the Fighting Irish will take the field in just three short days. What does the 2012 football season have in store for the Notre Dame faithful? Here are my thoughts and predictions.

9. Notre Dame – Stanford Photo Journal

I must be the luckiest girl ever. First I get sent back to Notre Dame through the “Biggest Fan of the Big East” contest to watch the Notre Dame Men’s basketball team upset undefeated Syracuse University. Then, I get the opportunity to do a special project and land myself in the press box for the Notre Dame-Stanford football game, the most exciting win that I’ve seen at Notre Dame in a very long time. Here are some highlights of my epic weekend on Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend.

8. Tweet Like A Champion Today

Social media sites, such as Twitter, really do make the world a much smaller and more intimate place. This is highly beneficial for Notre Dame Football fans that truly stretch from coast to coast and even country to country. Fans are able to communicate with one another and follow accounts of players, coaches, athletic department employees, and bloggers that offer varying and unique points of view on everything Notre Dame Football. With so many Notre Dame affiliated accounts, it’s easy for some to slip under the radar. The following is a compilation of Twitter accounts that every true Fighting Irish fan needs to follow.

7.  Notre Dame Sports Illustrated Cover

We all knew it was coming. Notre Dame is back! On the SI cover that is. The Fighting Irish play USC this weekend during rivalry week and a victory locks up a BCS National Title game berth. The cover looks cool and all but my question is: does the jinx still apply if there isn’t a particular player on the cover?

6. Shamrock Series Uniform

The University of Notre Dame, after teasing us with swatches from the uniform for days, released the alternate uniform that will be worn for the 2012 Shamrock Series game. The Shamrock Series game will feature the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Soldier field in Chicago.

5.  How to be a Better Fan

Greetings readers of No Coast Bias! I, of course, am your Warlord and Soverign Emperor of the (Notre Dame) Subway Alumni; The Subway Domer.

OK, that’s enough pomp and circumstance. Lisa asked me to stop by and chat with y’all, and I promised to behave.

What I want to talk with you today may be a bit out of the normal from what you would think about just weeks away from the season, and you may beat your head into a wall even more violently if you have read Subway Domer or have followed me on Twitter. What I want to discuss, is how to be a better fan. Correction: How to be a better fan of The Fighting Irish.

4. ESPN’s Frank Broyles Award Winner Mishap

Notre Dame’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco won the Frank Broyles Award on Tuesday of this week. The photo of him receiving his award last night, however, was actually that of Notre Dame Football Media Relations director, Brian Hardin.

This error quickly went viral on twitter with the Notre Dame masses hoping that any teams pursuing Bob Diaco will now pursue Brian Hardin instead.

3. Notre Dame Football 2012

Five days … it’s a mere five days until the return of college football, and the Fighting Irish are slated to kick off their season in Dublin, Ireland versus the Midshipman of Navy.

I will have my 2012 Notre Dame Football preview ready shortly, but in the mean time, here is the schedule so that you can mull over the potential  win/loss column stats yourself.

2. Auburn Students Create War Irish T-Shirts for National Championship Game

An Auburn fan, Griff Smith has created a WAR IRISH t-shirt for the National Championship matchup between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and their in-state rival Alabama Crimson Tide.  It seems that whenever an SEC team gets into the National Championship game, the other schools in the SEC forget that they hated that team all year and start this ridiculous  ”SEC! SEC! SEC!” stuff so I am happy that the Auburn students got creative and will cheer against their bitter rivals.

And the number one Notre Dame post of 2012 …

1. Manti vs Manziel

For several months leading up to the season, the Heisman trophy was Matt Barkley’s to lose … then he played Stanford…

A new stallion took over when Geno Smith put up video game-esque numbers … the clear-cut Heisman leader then lost 5 straight games.

Collin Klein, of Kansas State, outdueled Geno Smith in their matchup and quickly marched to the top of the Heisman race … then lost to a 4-win Baylor team.

With these quarterbacks, there has been a horde of other players to inch near the top this season, only to be tackled 1 yard shy of collegiate stardom. Read more …

With just a week left until the national title game which matches up a 12-0 Notre Dame team against a 12-1 Alabama, Notre Dame nation is ready to put a wonderful 2012 behind them and greet 2013 with open arms.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Alabama’s Defense: As Good As Advertised?

Photo courtesy of  The Turning Point

(Guest post written by Jake Simons)

What’s Notre Dame’s best chance at winning the 2013 National Championship?

A simple game plan, really. Run the ball …
… and never stop.

Unfortunately, on January 7th, the best rushing defense will be standing in front of the end zone protecting the crystal ball.

But, is Alabama’s rushing defense really as good as advertised?

Sure, they play in the most dominant conference in the country.

Sure, they only surrendered 79.77 rushing yards a game.

But, were the 79.77 rushing yards gained by worthy competition?

I’m not one to decide which players are worthy or not. My lack of credentials will easily back that up. So, I’ll let statistics be the ultimate judge.

On any given Saturday, any given team can execute any given task if given enough preparation. So, instead of looking at how Alabama and Notre Dame fared against their opposition (especially since Alabama played an easier schedule), I’d like to look at the game-changers: the individuals on those teams that perform week-in and week-out … the name-brand players, if you will.
Notre Dame and Alabama face off in the
2013 BCS National Championship.
Photo courtesy of The Turning Point
Let’s look at the five best rushers that each team faced … and we’ll let the statistics ultimately decide who truly has the better rushing defense.

After meticulously siphoning through Alabama’s schedule, I have determined (according to statistics, of course) that the five best runners they faced were:

Denard Robinson – Michigan
LaDarius Perkins – Mississippi St.
Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
Tre Mason – Auburn
Todd Gurley – Georgia

(I refused to include Antonio Andrews from Western Kentucky for obvious reasons.)

The five best runners that Notre Dame faced were:

Gee Gee Greene, Noah Copeland, Keenan Reynolds – Navy*
Leveon Bell – Michigan State
Denard Robinson – Michigan
Stepfan Taylor – Stanford
Silas Redd – USC

*Since Navy had three guys who rushed over 600 yards a piece, I decided to include them all because, well, Navy runs extensively without having a single featured back.

Automatically, from a 5th grader’s standpoint, it goes without saying that Notre Dame has easily faced the better rushing crew. But, I’m trying to keep opinions aside, and show only the facts.

Ergo, Alabama’s opposing speedsters:

Robinson rushed for 27 yards against Alabama, and averaged 117 on the season.
Perkins rushed for 38 yards against Alabama, and averaged 85 on the season.
Manziel rushed for 92 yards against Alabama, and averaged 98 on the season.
Mason rushed for 82 yards against Alabama, and averaged 84 on the season.
Gurley rushed for 122 yards against Alabama, but averaged 97 on the season.

I’ll do the math for you. These five guys averaged 72.2 yards a game when playing Alabama, and averaged 96.2 yards a game on the season. In other words, the most electrifying rushers who faced Alabama gained 75% of their actual per-game rushing output when playing the Crimson Tide.

Here’s how the stars stacked up against Notre Dame:

Greene, Copeland, and Reynolds rushed for 59 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 174 on the season.
Bell rushed for 77 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 137 on the season.
Robinson rushed for 90 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 117 on the season.
Taylor rushed for 102 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 120 on the season.
Redd rushed for 77 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 91 on the season.

These five units averaged 81 yards a game when playing Notre Dame, but averaged 127.8 yards a game on the season. These name-brand players, who are known for punishing defenses with their speed and agility, only gained – get this – 63% of their actual per-game rushing output when playing the Fighting Irish.

It goes without saying that, not only did Notre Dame face better rushing attacks, but they also did a better job of stopping them (especially considering that Alabama’s best opposing rusher is the fourth best that Notre Dame faced).
I didn’t even mention the fact that Alabama allowed 9 rushing TDs in 27 red zone attempts, while Notre Dame only allowed 2 … in 33 attempts.

To put that into perspective, Alabama’s opponents will score (by rushing) once every 3 times they get inside the 20 yard line.

Opponents of Notre Dame? They’ll score on the ground once every 16 times they reach the red zone.

No doubt Alabama presents yet another challenge, another set of dynamic running backs, for the Fighting Irish. Together, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon average 168 yards a game. In order to hold their opponents to 63% of their actual output, Notre Dame must hold these two to a total of 106 yards.

Likewise, Alabama will be facing one of the best rushing attacks they’ll see all season. Notre Dame utilizes three different running backs in their game plan (Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, and George Atkinson III), and also possesses a mobile quarterback (Everett Golson) who can take off for 20 yards on any given play. These four, who see ample playing time during every game, together average 208 yards a game on the ground.

If Alabama’s defense wants to continue their 75% rushing output, they must hold these four to a total of 156 yards.

Can the deadly duo of Lacy and Yeldon present a challenge to Notre Dame’s front seven? Of course.

But, as long as the statistics and probabilities continue to pan out like they have all season, Notre Dame will have, hypothetically, out-rushed Alabama 156-106.

And what happens when Notre Dame runs well? Since 2005, they are 45-2 when out-rushing their opponent …

That’s 45 wins … and 2 losses …

Can the Irish wake up on January 8th clutching the crystal ball?

As long as both teams play like we all know they can…


Thank you to Jake Simons for this piece. Jake Simons currently resides in South Bend, Ind. and is in his second year of teaching 5th grade. Aside from teaching Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lifeskills, Jake imposes his love for the Fighting Irish on young, impressionable minds. His wife often wonders about his devout passion for Notre Dame, to which he responds (in his best Lou Holtz impersonation), “no explanation will suffice.” You can reach Jake at his blog, Gold and Blues Brothers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rally For Notre Dame Scholarships

Are you headed to Miami for the national title game? Looking for something to do that is fun and gives you the opportunity to give back? I've got just the event for you!

Rally for ND Scholarships Fast Facts 

Purpose: Raise money for existing local Notre Dame alumni club scholarships. Date and Time: January 5, 2013 1-4 p.m.

Location: Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six 2301 S.E. 17th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316. ND Club Host: Notre Dame Club of Ft Lauderdale (represented by Pete Buchanan ’82 and Anthony Fasano ’06).

Admission: 400 donors will be entertained. Donation is $75 per person, accompanied children under 14 admitted free of charge.

Proceeds: $20,000 in Net proceeds will go to local Notre Dame clubs represented by former a player. $20,000 will be distributed to ND Clubs all over the country. At the time of ticket purchase each person will be asked to designate which club they wish to represent.

Entertainment and swag: Donors will receive a swag bag that includes an Adidas t-shirt being created for the Notre Dame football team on their trip to the Championship. Donors will mingle with dozens of Notre Dame legends including: Rick Mirer, Reggie Brooks, Tony Rice, Haley Scott DeMaria, Pete Buchanan, Derrick Mayes, Brady Quinn, Anthony Fasano, Irv Smith, John Carney and many others.

Donations are now being accepted on the Irish Player Charities website (see “buy now” link on sidebar). As part of the donation process, donors will be asked to list the Notre Dame local alumni club of their choice. $50 of the donation will go directly to that club’s local scholarship fund.

How to stay current (and qualify for frequent swag giveaways): 
Twitter @NDPlayercharity

See you in Miami!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Where Are They Now? Devon McDonald

[Photo: Hesburgh Library, Matt Cashore]

[] Devon Linton McDonald was born on November 8, 1969 in Kingston, Jamaica. When he was eleven years old, his family moved to Paterson, NJ where both he and his twin brother Ricardo got involved playing football. Both boys displayed considerable talents, and there was no question football was in their futures. However, Devon and Ricardo ended up taking different football paths after graduating high school; Devon decided to play at the University of Notre Dame while Ricardo opted to attend the University of Pittsburgh (Ricardo was the second ranked linebacker coming out of college in 1992). Both had many successes in college and went on to play in the NFL.

Devon earned his degree in American Studies from Notre Dame. He was the team captain as a senior, an Honorable Mention All-American in 1992, a member of the 1988 national title team and was named co-MVP in the 1993 Cotton Bowl game. While in the NFL he played linebacker for four seasons; three of them for the Indianapolis Colts and one for the Arizona Cardinals.

McDonald currently lives in Indianapolis with his wife Shereasher, and his two daughters Jazzmine and Rachel. He is an ordained minister who is active with Sports World Ministries, an organization that speaks to students about life choices.

Q: Being from Paterson, New Jersey, how did you become interested in playing football at Notre Dame?

Devon McDonald, Notre Dame
A: “When I was eleven we moved to New Jersey and I saw the game of American football for the first time. There was something about all of the hitting that really drew my brother and I into the game. Ricardo and I both started out playing high school football at Eastside High School (the school featured in the 1989 movie Lean On Me), but during our sophomore year our football coach told us that if we really wanted to play Division I football that we should think about transferring to a different high school. My brother Ricardo stayed at Eastside High, and I transferred to the rival high school, Kennedy High School. During my Junior year at Kennedy High School we went 0-8-1. During my senior year at Kennedy High School we went 10-0-1 and were State Champions. So I think I made a good choice.”

“You’re going to have haters in your life, and you’re going to have people who think you can do no wrong, but here’s the difference…what are you saying?”

“So then the colleges came knocking just about every college out there. My mother’s prayer was that first and foremost we got a good education, and then secondly that we’d get to play football.”

“I took four official visits. My first visit was to Iowa. I got there and it was a big drunken party weekend and I thought, this is it, this is my school. My High School coach Frank Bonadies said let’s look at a few more schools. Next we went to Illinois, and then after Illinois we went to Notre Dame. When I got on campus in December it was 65F. I had heard that the west was warmer, and this was the mid west, so this was great! This is how God works.”

“As soon as I got on campus I saw the golden dome, I said to myself, ‘this is it. This is where I want to come.’ I enjoyed the weekend, but it was love at first sight. Rod West was my host on campus that weekend. And then after ND, my final visit was to the University of Miami (FL).”

“Jimmy Johnson was the coach at Miami and they had very heavily recruited me. During my recruiting trip to Miami they took my Mom out, wined and dined her, showed her a good time and she said this is where you are going to school. She didn’t cook for me for a week when I told her that I wanted to go to Notre Dame. The recruiter from Miami told me, ‘Next year we’re gonna kick your (backside).’ And in my mind I’m thinking, wow. So for Notre Dame to beat Miami 31-30 at home the next season, that was big.”

“My twin brother, he chose the University of Pitt, and we beat them every year. Life was good.”

Q: What was your biggest challenge at Notre Dame?

A: “Besides the weather? I didn’t have educated parents so they could not help me with many nuances of college life. They didn’t go to college so I didn’t have anybody to reference – ‘Look out for this.’ They did the best that they could but they couldn’t provide me great direction. My pops loved the sport, but never really got engaged. I called home one day and said ‘I’m hurt’ and his response was, ‘Quit.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to quit. I want your advice.’ There was a great deal of pressure put on us both academically and athletically. You had to do well in class, and you had to win.”

“As they say in the NFL … you don’t get paid to play, you get paid to win.”

Q: What is your favorite Notre Dame football memory?
Defensive star Devon McDonald takes
the field before the Penn State game.
(Ed Andrews Collection)

A: “The first ND game I saw from beginning to end was actually the first game of my freshman year — it was at home versus Michigan under the lights. Prior to that, I had watched five minutes of a Notre Dame game during my senior year in high school just so that I could tell the coaches that recruited me from Notre Dame that I watched ND football games.”

“My biggest game at Notre Dame was a Michigan game, I think it was in 1991, when I had 18 tackles against the Wolverines. I hated Michigan. I hated those helmets. Those are some ugly helmets.”

“My last game at ND was pretty great as well. I was the defensive MVP at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1993 vs. Texas A&M. So I would say those are three of my favorites.”

Q: How do you remember your NFL Draft Day?

A: “I watched the NFL draft at home, expecting that I’d be picked in the second or third round. The Giants had been calling me and asking me questions and that is where I thought I’d end up. When the Giants came up to make their selection, they picked a linebacker from Texas A&M who I had outplayed during the Cotton Bowl game. That made absolutely no sense to me. I had been the MVP and he got drafted before I did? He was a bit smaller than I was and maybe that’s what they wanted. So then the Colts started calling me and I was thinking to myself, ‘The Colts?’ My brother (who entered the NFL the year before me) had told me, the team who’s going to pick you won’t show any interest until the very last second because they don’t want to show their hand.”

“I remember going to see my brother, driving through Indianapolis on my way to Cincinnati, and there was something about Indianapolis that had piqued my interest even then. I just couldn’t put my finger on what, but that’s where I ended up so it worked out.”

“The Colts wound up drafting me as the 107th pick of the fourth round.”

Q: How do you remember your NFL experience? Highs and Lows? What was the highlight of your NFL career?

A: “To be completely honest, the money was definitely one of the highs of playing in the NFL. Money gives you the ability to afford a lot of freedoms that you couldn’t otherwise have. The lows include what comes along with the money…the gold diggers. Not just females, men just as much as women. People come out of the woodwork with business propositions for you. More players get taken than you’d ever know because they will never tell you that they got taken. Some of the guys that I played with on the Colts, they lost millions of dollars being taken by people that they thought were trustworthy. It’s a business; it is not just a game like college is. You have to learn very quickly who you can trust and who you can’t. You have to make sure to surround yourself with good people.”

“I played in the NFL for four years. Three years with Indianapolis and one year with Arizona and then got cut by the Cardinals. I tried to get picked up by another team but it just didn’t work out. I got picked up by an Arena Football team down in Tampa Bay and played for there for two years. It was exciting to still be in the game, but then my next opportunity came and I decided it was time to move on.”

Q: Where did life take you after the NFL?

Former Colt Devon McDonald Dares
 the ‘Square to Make the Right Choices
A: “This life is hard…this life is your choice…you can’t blame anyone else. The more you take responsibilities the better you will do in life.”

“When I was released by the Colts and got picked up by the Cardinals I was at a point in my life where I made a spiritual conversion. I had a spiritual moment in my life out in Arizona that completely changed me and I began to follow Christ. I decided that there has to be more to my life than football. I took a personal training job and looked into buying the club or being a part owner but at the same time I was still trying to get back into the NFL. I went to a NFL combine and I ran the 40 in 4.58 and that was the fastest time I’d ever run. What I didn’t realize was that my pushing myself so hard was weakening my hamstrings. I went to another combine and ran the worst time I’d ever run in my life. I had never felt like I did that moment, as if my hamstring was about to pop at any moment. In 16 years of playing ball I’d never felt that way. I was just devastated.”

“There’s got to be more to life than this.”

“My brother Ricardo knew this player Steve Grant (West Virginia alum) that I played with at the Colts and that he played against when he was at Pitt. He had just retired from the NFL himself and they had reconnected at a Pro Athletes Organization conference. Grant told my brother for me to give him a call because he had a job opportunity that he wanted to run by me. As soon as the President of Sports World and I met, I just knew we were a good fit. He was also interviewing two other Colts players for this organization he was involved with, Sports World Ministries, but he knew right away I was the guy.”

“During the two years that I played Arena Ball in Tampa Bay, I was a Deacon during the year, and then I played football during the Arena season. When the Arena league moved their season from March to January I had to make a decision. Did I want to continue playing football, or was my calling to speak at schools through Sports World Ministries something I believed in more. While I had this need for the limelight, and wanted to prove to the world that I was still a good player, I took a look around at all of the young people that I had a chance to positively impact. That was something I wanted to be a part of, so I gave up football.”

“Our mission at Sports World Ministries is, “to send professional athletes to share personal life experiences with students, helping them to recognize the consequences of their choices while challenging them with the message of hope.” As an ordained minister, the best part of my job is knowing we are making an impact; that we’re encouraging positive choices”

Q: What advice would you give to current student athletes?

A: “Get their priorities in order and know their purpose. When you know your purpose it’s easy to set your priorities straight. It helps you know who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. It is also important to surround yourself with good people. As you go through your journey, you will need to weed out the people who you don’t need to be around. You’re going to lose some people along the way but that’s okay because they are not going where you are going. Be comfortable in your own skin. That’s 90% of the battle of life. I’m fine being me. That’s when you can make more money than you’ll ever hope for. What is the most natural act? Being you. Things become work when you are acting or performing, but be yourself and what comes out will be from the heart.”

Q: What is your favorite Lou Holtz memory?

A: “My freshman year we were down at the Fiesta Bowl playing for the national title, and as we were wrapping up our last practice coach Holtz said, ‘We’re going to practice how to celebrate after we win the national title.’ We all look around at each other, he can’t possibly be serious. Yep, he was serious. We practiced celebrating after the win. Talk about attention to detail. And then, to see it all come true and we all knew exactly what to do after we won. Classic coach Holtz.”

Q: What do you think of this year’s Notre Dame squad?

A: “The reality of this year’s team is that right now they are undefeated…so were we back in 1988…but what does that mean for you individually as a player? We win as a team. The team has a goal, a process, a plan, and a passion. You stick with all of that and follow your goals hopefully to the national title game. They all need to keep in mind that football is going to end, and then have a plan for what will happen to them individually. Have fun, but don’t waste time. That’s why God gave us laughter, but he gave us tears, too. Let’s use all of the gifts that he gave us. While you are having fun, riding the wave, just realize that this window is going to close. You’ve got influence. What are you going to do with it?”

“Manti Te’o is quite the remarkable young man. He could lead a country. He’s not a mean guy, but he plays with such passion. His love makes him aggressive. He loves his team, his teammates, his university, but to the opposition that love comes off as being mean.”

“I didn’t think I looked mean, but I was told time and time again in college and the pros that I looked mean. No one would mess with me. What they didn’t know was that I had hammer toes and that’s why I had that look on my face my feet were hurting (laughs).”

“Much is given in life, and much is required. Look at what this young man (Te’o) has gone through. Two losses in his life in six hours. When I lost my Mom I was so angry. I was angry with my family, with people and with myself. It took me at least a year to get over it. Here he is on a world stage. He’s presidential material for sure. You sense that he’s going to be honest with you, that he’s going to tell you the truth. That it is what it is. He’s a hard worker. All the great qualities of a great leader.”

“What it comes down to when you play on a team like this Notre Dame squad…as a team you become the power of one. You don’t have to light an entire box of matches. You just have to light one and the rest follow.”

I’d like to give Devon McDonald a big thank you for stopping by the blog. If you are interested in supporting Sports World Ministries or bringing a Sports World Ministries representative to your local school, please visit the organization’s website at


 A big thank you goes out to Tyler Moorehead for his editing help & perspective on this story. Tyler is a Senior English major at Notre Dame (& writes for You can catch Tyler on Twitter at — @Tmoorehead627

Friday, December 7, 2012

Where Are They Now? Pat Dolan

[] Pat Dolan is the youngest of eight children from Throop, Pennsylvania, a small town outside of Scranton. Being raised in a devout Irish Catholic family and in an Irish community in Pennsylvania, there were a lot of ND fans who influenced Pat from an early age to attend Notre Dame.

Both of his parents were widowed early in life, his father being left with three children and his mother being left with two of her own, when their parish priest intervened to introduce them and suggested that they marry each other which they did fairly soon after. They had three more children together to make eight, Pat being the baby after his younger brother Paul died as an infant. His older sisters were all nurses and paid for a lot of his clothing when he was in high school and college. Even though he was probably one of the poorest kids on the team at ND, his buddies used to borrow his clothes because his sisters had such good taste, some of which were never returned. Bob Williams (Notre Dame quarterback) showed up at their house in New Jersey years later wearing one of Pat’s shirts that he had tailored to fit his slimmer build!

After a career at Notre Dame that included the unforgettable win over Oklahoma in 1957 that broke their 47-game win streak, Dolan married his high school sweetheart Katie and pursued a career in coaching. They have one daughter, Erin Dolan, and Erin has three children: Connor ND 2012, Mary Fiona ND 2015 and Faelen who is in high school and hoping to be ND 2020.

Q: What lead you to play football at Notre Dame?

A: “Throop, Penn. was a very strong Irish Catholic community and many friends of our family and parishioners influenced me to attend Notre Dame. Not necessarily to play football, but to receive an excellent Catholic education. I was also exposed to Notre Dame football early on when they came to my high school, Scranton Technical High School, when I was a freshman to recruit one of my teammates, Bill Hollenbeck. Bill went on to become a specialist kicker at ND. After that exposure to the Fighting Irish I became much more interested in playing football there. Even though there were many top football programs who were recruiting me, the only other school that I was seriously looking at besides was the University of North Carolina.”

Q: What was the best part of playing football at Notre Dame?

A: “Just playing for Notre Dame, and traveling with the team itself was an amazing experience. We played some amazing teams, and there were some great players that I played with (too many to list Dolan says). I would not trade my time at Notre Dame for anything.”

“One of my best friends on the team was running back Dick Lynch. He went to Phillipsburg Catholic High School in Phillipsburg New Jersey, and I was familiar with the area even before I got to ND because my high school played Phillipsburg High School in football. When we got to Notre Dame Dick reached out to me being that we were from the same area and we became lifelong friends.”

“Dick was the hero in our big upset over Oklahoma in 1957. He was a defensive standout (played defensive back), but he also scored the only touchdown in that 7-0 win over the Sooners which broke their 47-game win streak. Dick went on to have a successful career in the NFL playing for the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.”

“Our quarterback, Bob Williams, and I were also very close. He is the godfather to my daughter, Erin. There is nothing quite like the Notre Dame family. It stays with you forever.”

“I studied Physical Education at ND and played tackle for the offense and defense. Back in those days you played on both sides of the ball.”

Q: What was the media hype like leading up to the Notre Dame – Oklahoma game in 1957?

A: “The media has changed tremendously over the last 50 years, but the hype that the media placed on that Note Dame – Oklahoma match up was still quite intense. What made the story even bigger was the fact that in the previous 48 games Oklahoma only had one loss, and that one loss was at the hands of Notre Dame. And here we were headed into Norman to try and do the same thing that our 1953 counterparts had done when they upset the Sooners in their season debut by a score of 28-21.”

“Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Notre Dame had been 2-8 the season before in 1956 and headed into the Oklahoma game the Fighting Irish were 4-2, but were still not on anyone’s short list as being world beaters by any stretch of the imagination. So here was this nobody team from South Bend coming into Norman and we turned their world completely upside down.”

Q: Did you and your fellow teammates think you had what it took to upset Oklahoma’s apple cart?

A: “When you play for Notre Dame, you think you are capable of anything. That is what our coaches taught us. Go out there, do your best, and good things will happen. And that’s exactly how we ended up doing it.”

Q: What was it like being on the field at the end of the game and being the team that finally broke the streak?

A: “It was an incredible situation. Oklahoma was  No. 1 and undefeated and no one truly expected us to come in there and pull off the upset. It was absolutely unbelievable.  We were supposed to stay overnight in Norman after the game but because of the extraordinary situation they decided to fly us home for the various celebrations that were waiting for us (and to get out of Dodge before the place erupted).”

“As we were flying back to South Bend, the pilots kept announcing to us what the plan was and what was waiting for us when we got home. The towns below us kept turning their lights on and off in celebration of our big win and they even sang the fight song for us on the plane.”

“The airport was loaded with people when we arrived in South Bend, and there was a parade like atmosphere driving down the streets on our way to campus. When we arrived on campus, the students were waiting to welcome us at the circle. It was unforgettable.”

Q: Did you play professional football after your career at Notre Dame?

A: “I could have had a shot at it, but I decided to pursue a coaching career instead. My first coaching stop was at a little high school in Mt Clemens, Michigan, St. Mary’s High School. I coached the football team there for three years.”

“Then I moved to Franklin Township, New Jersey and took a job coaching the football team at Franklin Township High School. I started out coaching the football team and was eventually promoted to be their Athletic Director and stayed there until I retired in 1992.”

“In 1989 we were looking for a new head coach for the high school football team, and my old friend Dick Lynch gave me a call. He knew we were looking for someone, and knew a fellow Notre Dame alum that was looking for a job and suggested that I take a look at him. That alum was Charlie Weis, and we gave him his first head football coaching job. He coached our football team for one year and the team broke the state record for touchdowns that year as well as going to the New Jersey State Championship. Tremendous start to that young man’s career!”

Author’s note … at the end of my delightful conversation with Pat Dolan he asked me if I had ever heard of the Irish Blessing. Well, as an Irish girl, I’m sure I had but I asked to hear it from him all the same. And so I received an Irish blessing from one of Notre Dame’s greats. There truly is nothing like the Notre Dame family. God bless!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I am so grateful that Pat Dolan was able to stop by the blog and walk down memory lane with us. Stay tuned, next up on “Where are they now?” is Notre Dame linebacker, Devon McDonald.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Comparison: Manti vs. Manziel

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Image

(Guest post written by Jake Simons)

For several months leading up to the season, the Heisman trophy was Matt Barkley’s to lose … then he played Stanford…

A new stallion took over when Geno Smith put up video game-esque numbers … the clear-cut Heisman leader then lost 5 straight games.

Collin Klein, of Kansas State, out dueled Geno Smith in their match up and quickly marched to the top of the Heisman race … then lost to a 4-win Baylor team.

With these quarterbacks, there has been a horde of other players to inch near the top this season, only to be tackled 1 yard shy of collegiate stardom.
(Photo: Ray Carlin/Icon SMI)
Johnny Manziel

And then, out of nowhere, this red-shirt freshman boy, beats Alabama with two weeks left in the season to solidify his spot at the top of most Heisman polls.  Fortunately for Johnny Manziel, his team suffered its two losses earlier in the season.  And Mr. Football himself was able to load his team on his back to finish the regular season with better statistics than Tim Tebow and Cam Newton could ever achieve.

That’s saying a lot.  Especially as a red-shirt freshman.

But there has been one player lurking near the top of the water throughout the entire season; a player who has humbly put his team, his coaches, his school, his fan base, his country on his back, to bring a storied program out of two decades of despair; a leader who plays on the other side of the ball.  That player, of course, is Manti Te’o.

So with the regular season of college football in the books, voters must decide between a quarterback with gaudy numbers or an inside linebacker with a resume just as impressive … between a country boy or a Hawaiian man … a freshman or a senior.

How do you even compare the two?  Is it even possible to associate an offensive player with a defensive player?  Is it fair to compare an upperclassman to a frosh?  Is it morally acceptable to compare the best player on a 2-loss team to the best player on the only undefeated bowl-eligible team in the country?

The answer is yes.  It is possible; it is fair; it is acceptable.  Why?  Because the Heisman trophy is about more than who can reach the end zone more times.  It’s about more than who can hold the ball the longest.  It’s about more than breaking records.  It’s about which player can demonstrate diligence, perseverance, hard work, integrity, and excellence on a weekly and daily basis.

Not once a season.  Not twice.  But every single Saturday that player straps up.  Every single day that student wakes up.

It’s no lie that Manti Te’o has been about as consistent a player as possible on Notre Dame’s roster.  He is only the second player in Notre Dame history to record three straight 100-tackle seasons.

It’s also no secret that Johnny Football has put up ungodly numbers in his first season at the helm of the Aggies.

But again, how can you compare the two?  How can you compare a team that has played the 8th hardest schedule in the country to a team that has played the 29th hardest?

Let’s look at consistency.  Let’s look at how Manti and Johnny have stacked up against the best of the best.  Let’s take out the outliers of the easy competition like Boston College and Sam Houston St.  Because let’s be honest, anyone can put up a beautiful stat-line against weak competition (see Case Keenum’s 2011 campaign of 5631 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions against high school-caliber competition … and wasn’t even in the Heisman discussion).

After all, shouldn’t the award go to the player who performs the absolute best at the highest level?

The Aggies have played three teams (Florida, Alabama, and LSU) that still remain ranked in the latest BCS rankings.  The Fighting Irish have also played three teams (Stanford, Oklahoma, and Michigan) that are still ranked.  So, let’s take a look at how the two stacked up.

Johnny Manziel - QB
vs. Florida (L)    173 PASS YDS – 0 TD – 0 INT      60 RUSH YDS – 1 TD
vs. LSU (L)         276 PASS YDS – 0 TD – 3 INT      27 RUSH YDS – 0 TD
@ Alabama (W)   253 PASS YDS – 2 TD – 0 INT      92 RUSH YDS – 0 TD

Manti Te’o - ILB
vs. Michigan (W)          8 TKLS – 0 Sacks – 2 INT
vs. Stanford (W)          11 TKLS – 0 Sacks – 0 INT
@ Oklahoma (W)          11 TKLS – 1 Sack – 1 INT

Nothing really pops out at you … except for the fact that Manziel is 1-2 against stiff defenses and Te’o is 3-0 against explosive offenses … and that Manti can handle two preseason Heisman hopefuls (Denard Robinson and Landry Jones) and one current hopeful (Stephan Taylor) with ease … and, what the numbers don’t show, is that Manti has led his defense to the top spot in the country, and subsequently, his team to the #1 ranking.

I guess Johnny Football isn’t so football when he plays exclusive competition.

In fact, let’s take this a step further and pretend that these two players’ teams played elite competition every Saturday.  Let’s just see what their projected season would be like against the best of the best.  Consistency against the elite, remember?

(Photo: Mike DiNovo, US Presswire) Manti Te'o
After 12 games against top-tier talent, Johnny Manziel would project to finish the season with …       2808 PASS YDS – 8 TD – 12 INT and 716 RUSH YDS – 4 TD … really, mediocre at best.

After 12 games against similar top-tier talent, Manti Te’o would project to finish the season with …     120 TKLS – 4 Sacks – 12 INT … all that against explosive offenses … and as a linebacker.

This is based solely on statistics.  Nothing else.  No back stories.  No grandmother or girlfriend passing away within a six-hour span (Manti).  No arrests or misdemeanors (Johnny).  None of that.

Back stories aside (though, integrity is a key component to the Heisman equation), who competes at the highest level against the highest level?

In most years, the Heisman trophy has been given to the best player on the best team.  So, why is that suddenly any different this year?  Is it because Notre Dame doesn’t have an elite offensive player?  Why would Johnny Football suddenly ascend to the top of the polls as the leader of a 2-loss team, when Collin Klein’s team, whose resume is just as impressive, only has one?

Defense wins championships.  Everyone can agree with that.  So, why has there never been a true defensive player to win the Heisman?  On December 8th, 2012, history will be made.

Congratulations, Manti Te’o, on your integrity and excellence on and off the field.

Thank you to Jake Simons for this piece. Jake Simons currently resides in South Bend, Ind. and is in his second year of teaching 5th grade.  Aside from teaching Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lifeskills, Jake imposes his love for the Fighting Irish on young, impressionable minds.  His wife often wonders about his devout passion for Notre Dame, to which he responds (in his best Lou Holtz impersonation), "no explanation will suffice." You can reach Jake on Twitter at @G_Double_B