Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Notre Dame Thank You to Veterans

[Story courtesy of Rick Mirer and Irish Player Charities]

Irish Player Charities, a Notre Dame affinity social network community, thanks all Veterans for their service. We also want to salute Rocky Bleier and name Brady Quinn’s 3rd and Goal Foundation as IPC’s featured foundation for November.

Rick Mirer, founder of the affinity social network community "Irish Player Charities" announces Brady Quinn’s 3rd and Goal Foundation will be the featured charity for November. He also announces creation of a Facebook page "Fighting Irish Fans who are Veterans or Currently Serving."

Mirer, a social entrepreneur, philanthropist and former NFL player, was integral in creating the initial Irish Player Charities social media presence that has now evolved into an ASNC.

"I think I speak for most Notre Dame and NFL players in saying we have great respect for our Armed Forces," says Mirer. "The men and women who serve our country are the real heroes. We are all aware of the sacrifices made by military families across the nation. The Mirer Family Foundation, is committed to assist programs helping educate the children of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

"IPC is proud to recognize our November featured charity, Brady Quinn’s 3rd and Goal Foundation," Mirer stated. "Brady’s foundation helps homeless veterans find housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol."

Brady Quinn, currently playing for the St. Louis Rams, chose to focus his charitable efforts on veterans due to his great respect for those who have served including his father and grandfather.

The men and women who serve our country are the real heroes. We are all aware of the sacrifices made by military families across the nation. - Rick Mirer

IPC also wishes to salute former Notre Dame and NFL star Rocky Bleier and all Notre Dame alumni who served. Bleier was a member of the 1966 National Championship team and captain of the 1967 squad. He had already begun a professional football career when he was called to service. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam and suffered severe injuries in combat that most thought would end his potential professional career. Instead, Bleier played for a decade with the Pittsburgh Steelers and won four Super Bowl Rings.

IPC also announces creation of a facebook page for Notre Dame fans in service. Mirer stated "'Fighting Irish Fans who are Veterans or Currently Serving' is a place for all Notre Dame fans to honor the military. We look forward to connecting with the global Notre Dame military family through this new page as well as our tribute in a special website section on goirishipc.org."

About Fighting Irish Fans who are Veterans or Currently Serving: This Facebook page has been created as a direct presence for sharing pictures and information about Notre Dame fans in the military.

About Irish Player Charities:

Irish Player Charities is an affinity social network community that unites Notre Dame sports fans and creates visibility for charitable and community service efforts by University of Notre Dame coaches and player alumni. It also serves as a place where all Notre Dame players, family, friends, alumni and fans can gather. It is not a company or a not for profit. Instead it is a privately financed place where all the Notre Dame global community can network with each other. It is a hub collecting Notre Dame sports related information to allow "one stop" viewing. All those involved in social media are welcomed to join to create visibility for their presences.

Cheers & GO Irish!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Do You Have a Yes Face?

A 'Yes' Face 
by Charles Swindoll  
During Thomas Jefferson's presidency he and a group of travelers were crossing a river that had overflowed its banks. Each man crossed on horseback fighting for his life. A lone traveler watched the group traverse the treacherous river and then asked President Jefferson to take him across.

The president agreed without hesitation, the man climbed on, and the two made it safely to the other side of the river where somebody asked him: "Why did you select the President to ask this favor?"

The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President of the United States who had carried him safely across. "All I know," he said, "is that on some of your faces was written the answer 'No' and on some of them was the answer 'Yes.' His was a 'Yes' face."

"The most significant decision I make each day is my choice of an attitude. When my attitudes are right there's no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme and no challenge too great." - Charles Swindoll

What's your attitude going to be today? Will you have on your 'Yes' face?


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curbing a Dangerous Habit: Texting and Driving

Dangerous habits ... texting and driving.
Most of us have a fair amount of driving experience under our belts and have a certain confidence level as to our ability to drive and text at the same time. You may think that you are still paying attention to the road and your driving when you are multi tasking in your car, but trust me, you are not. You are giving yourself a false sense of security if you think you can safely drive and text at the same time. No one can.

Let me show you a few statistics:
  • The texting-while-driving statistics in 2010 compiled by Pew Research Center revealed that 47 percent of adults resort to texting as compared to 34 percent of teenagers. The same stats revealed that 75 percent of adults resort to phone conversation while driving as compared to 52 percent of teenagers.
  • In 2011, at least 23% of auto collisions involved cell phones … that’s 1.3 million crashes
  • 5 seconds: The minimum amount of time your attention is taken away from the road when you’re texting and driving … if you’re traveling at 55 mph this equals driving the length of a football field without looking at the road (wow.)
Let me offer you a convenient solution to safely and securely put your smartphone away while you are driving. The MobiValet smart phone car mount.

 I recently found this smartphone car mount and it has really helped me to put the phone down while I am driving. It’s great because I know when it’s in the MobiValet iPhone car mount that it’s not sliding all over my car and it’s safely out of sight. I am also able to charge my phone while it is stored in the MobiValet smartphone car mount because of its innovative design. The creative minds at MobiValet had the busy person in mind when they designed this smartphone car mount. They lowered both side walls of the car mount so that the majority of smartphones can be inserted into the holder WITHOUT having to first unplug the AC power charger! This is a huge bonus for me when I’m on the go and need to charge my phone.

If you’re worried about the adhesive, don’t. Trust me; I wouldn’t attach something to my car without doing my homework first! If for some reason you need to remove the MobiValet smartphone mount from your car, it will not leave any "residue" on your console. MobiValet uses a specially designed acrylic adhesive that has a specific application for use in automobiles. There is no residue left behind upon removal of the adhesive.

It’s important for me to be a good role model for my children, especially now that I have a teen behind the wheel as well. The MobiValet has helped me show my children the importance of putting the phone down while driving, it is a great looking accessory in my car, and my phone is securely stored and being charged all at once. Why didn’t I find this sooner? Check it out for yourself! http://www.mobivalet.com/default.asp


An Impressive Outing for the Irish Offense

Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees (11) passes against Air Force in the first quarter of an NCAA football game in Air Force Academy, Colo., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
[HerLoyalSons.com] Notre Dame met the Air Force Falcons on Saturday, the 30th meeting between the two teams in the last fifty years, most of them ending in a similar outcome, a Notre Dame victory. And this meeting was no different. While the results of this series may be lopsided, a program like Air Force built on service and honor always has a chance. The 2013 Falcon squad, however, was no match up for Notre Dame’s impressive offensive showing.

Coming into the game there was some talk that the altitude and oxygen level would hinder the Irish performance but there were no such issues.

Tommy Rees opened the game with big passes to Troy Niklas (11 yards) and TJ Jones (11 yards). Jones currently is the leading receiver for the Irish and now has receptions in 35 consecutive games. Notre Dame put together an impressive initial offensive drive but was eventually stalled by the Falcons and then had an unsuccessful field goal attempt which was blocked by the Falcons. At this point it looked as though it was going to be a long day for the Irish.

When your offense gets the ball first and fails to score your coaching staff needs to quickly readjust their strategy and regroup. After watching the Air Force offense take over, march down the field and score on their first drive, the Notre Dame offense came out determined and ready to show Notre Dame nation what in their core.

After an Air Force penalty which aided the second Irish drive Tommy Rees, under pressure from the Falcon defense, quickly released a touchdown bomb to Corey Robinson. The 6’4” Robison had no problem going up and grabbing Rees’ pass which was perfectly placed in the end zone. This pass was Tommy’s 16th touchdown pass of the season. The Irish very quickly answered the Falcon’s first touchdown with this very quick five play drive. This was the first collegiate touchdown for Robinson out of San Antonio, Texas.

The Falcons could not answer this Irish touchdown on their next drive and so the Irish got right back to work on offense. DaVaris Daniels had a big catch early on in the drive and George Atkinson III started to get his running legs tuned up. At the end of the first quarter the Irish and the Falcons were tied 7 -7.

To start the second quarter Rees came out all guns firing with a big pass to Jones, and then on the very next play a huge bomb to William Fuller for the second Irish touchdown of the game, Fuller’s first collegiate score. The Irish may have had a slow start, but nothing seemed to be stopping them as they scored their second touchdown of the game. Early in the second quarter Rees was already 11 for 13 in pass completions for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Notre Dame’s second scoring drive consisted of 6 plays, for 91 yards consuming only 2:18 off the clock.  Fuller’s touchdown reception was 54 yards.

After an Air Force field goal the Irish offense returned to the field and literally hit the ground running. The possession began with an Atkinson 38 yard return giving the Irish great field position. Moving down the field Daniels caught a 28 yard pass to get the Irish down to the 21 yard line. This pass play was followed by a Tommy Rees touchdown pass to Ben Koyack. Rees was having a brilliant day, lighting up the Air Force defense. At this point Rees had completed 12 out of 15 passes for 215 yards.  With this touchdown Rees tied Ron Powlus on the all-time Notre Dame passing list and the Irish went up 21-10.

Yet again the Air Force offense had no response and the Irish got the ball back. The ridiculously photogenic Cam McDaniel took the ball first and got nine and a half yards on the first possession of this drive. Amir Carlisle then came in and pounded out the first down. This drive was not as electric as the previous drives had been and on 4th and 5 the Irish decided to go for it and not punt the ball. The gamble paid off for the Irish as Rees hits Troy Niklas for a nine yard gain and the first down. Tommy Rees had a few bumps in this drive, holding on to the ball at one point and ending up with a sack, but they still converted the drive into three more points on the board for the Irish with a Kyle Brindza field goal. This increased the Irish lead to 24-10.

During the game they flashed up Lou Holtz’s “How We Win” philosophy and once again we are reminded why we love Dr Lou so much.

  • Out hit
  • Fundamentals
  • Seven Areas: Turnovers, Big Plays, Missed Assignments, 3rd Downs, Foolish Penalties, Kicking Game, Red Zone
  • Togetherness
  • Don’t Flinch

Okay, I digress; back to the offense. At the end of the first half Tommy had 224 yard passing and at one point he had eight straight completions and three touchdowns. A fantastic first half appearance for Tommy Rees. (First half stats. Tommy Rees: 14/19, 224 yds, 3 TD, TJ Jones: 3 receptions for 59 yards.)

The Falcons began the second half with the ball but on their first drive the Air Force quarterback Nate Romine turned over the ball and the Notre Dame offense continued what they started in the first half. The drive began with several Cam McDaniel rushes and then Rees aired out a long ball to TJ Jones (30 yards) which was caught in the end zone for yet another Notre Dame touchdown.  It was a beautiful pass that Rees perfectly dropped into the corner of the end zone. Notre Dame successfully capitalized off the Air Force turnover and went up 31-10 in the third quarter.

Another unanswered possession by the Falcons gave the ball back to the Irish once again. Tommy Rees continued his mix of throwing the ball to his Irish receivers for big receptions as well as adding another component to the Irish running game with running back Tarean Folston. The drive culminated with yet another touchdown pass, this time to Chris Brown, Tommy Rees’ fifth touchdown of the game. (A career record for Rees.) This was Chris Brown’s first touchdown of the season and Notre Dame increased their lead to 38-10.

With a four touchdown lead the Irish brought in Andrew Hendrix to get him some more playing experience. On his first complete drive, the Irish took over possession at mid field. His first pass of the drive was a 46 yard long ball to William Fuller. What a great confidence booster for Hendrix! On the next play he keeps the ball and runs it in himself for the Irish touchdown. His first rushing touchdown of the season and the Irish moved to 44-10 over the Air Force Falcons. After a successful extra point the Fighting Irish move to a 45-10 lead which would be the final score of the game.

The Irish offense was dominating over the Falcons on Saturday. The statistics are quite impressive I must say. Here are a few notable statistics: http://www.und.com/sports/m-footbl/recaps/102613aaa.html

  • A school-record five different Notre Dame players (Corey Robinson, William Fuller, Ben Koyack, TJ Jones and Chris Brown) caught a touchdown pass today.
  • Notre Dame's 45 points today are its most since scoring 50 against Navy to open the 2012 season in Dublin.
  • Today's game was the first time that multiple ND freshmen (Robinson and Fuller) caught touchdown passes in the same game since Sept. 29, 2007 when Golden Tate and Duval Kamara caught touchdowns vs. Purdue.
  • The Irish did not turn the ball over today, improving to 13-0 under Brian Kelly in that scenario. ND has won all 13 of those games. It is the second time that Notre Dame has not turned the ball over this season, joining the season opener against Temple.
  • Eight different ND players caught a pass today, matching the squad's season high.
  • Rees set a career high with five touchdown passes. He previously threw four against Air Force in 2011 and Tulsa in 2010.

This was a great confidence booster for many of the young players on this Irish squad. I see a repeat of this next week versus Navy which gives the Irish a chance to continue to fine tune their craft on their journey to some tough games on the horizon (BYU and Stanford are worrisome in my eyes.)

What say you? Did this offensive performance give us false hopes for the rest of this season or is this team really starting to gel and work together?


Friday, October 25, 2013

Solutions for Busy Moms

Smartphone Car Holder for Busy Moms on the Go!

Cars these days seem to have a spot for you to place everything … your soda, spare coins, sunglasses … well, except for your smartphone. There is never a convenient place to put your phone where it is safe, secure and easy to reach when you need it. It always ends up sliding all over the car or is buried in your purse where you can’t reach it. And trust me, (you all know) I love my car, but there is no good place in my car for me to set my phone.

And then I found the MobiValet iPhone car mount.

This is the best smartphone car mount I’ve ever seen. It is easy to mount in your car and makes your smartphone easily accessible and safe to reach. And no, you shouldn’t be talking on your phone when you’re driving, but let’s face it … sometimes it cannot be avoided.

Check out how easy it is to install!

After selecting a spot on your console, use provided alcohol swab to clean off any dust or "shiny stuff" you use to make your console look good. (Allow 1 minute to dry.)

Step One
Peel off adhesive backing.

Step Two
Attach pressing "firmly" against console.

Step Three
In addition to being easy to install, the adhesive won’t damage your car either. If you need to remove the adhesive, it will not leave any "residue" on your console. MobiValet uses a specially designed acrylic adhesive that has a specific application for use in automobiles. There is no residue left behind upon removal of the adhesive.

Its attractive style is a bonus, too. I don’t want some cheap plastic looking thing in my car. I’m not just a Mom on-the-go, but a business woman as well. I need to keep my car looking nice for those last minute business lunches. The MobiValet is very sharp looking and it keeps my phone within reach at all times. 

Another unique design feature of the MobiValet is the ability to charge your phone while it is safely in the MobiValet car mount. In designing the MobiValet they lowered both side walls so that the majority of smartphones can be inserted into the holder WITHOUT having to first unplug the AC power charger! This is perfect for me as I’m always charging my smartphone, especially when I’m in the car!

Okay, so don’t just take my word for it, check out the MobiValet smartphone mount for yourself! You’re going to love it … I promise!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Feel the Passion

Notre Dame may not have beat SC in convincing fashion last weekend, but I did happen to witness two of the most passionate speeches that I have seen in quite some time. One at the Pep Rally Friday night (Coach Holtz) ... and one pre/during/post game (Coach Kelly). Did you miss them? Here ... I've got your hook up!

What are you passionate about?

Tell them to pack a sandwich ...

We play for each other ...


Sunday, October 20, 2013

It's a Long, Drawn Out, Convoluted, Tell-Tale Story

Notre Dame Sunrise (Photo: Matt Cashore)
Moving Day

Well, due to some unfortunate circumstances, the blog has moved.

You will no longer find us at www.BridgetMcGuiresFillingStation.com

You can now find us at www.BridgetMcGuires.com ... or always at bridgetmcguiresfillingstation.blogspot.com.

Please bookmark it so you don't lose us!

And hey ... how about that win over USC?



Where Are They Now? Courtney Watson

Courtney Watson at practice (Photo: AP Photo)
[HerLoyalSons.com] Being a student-athlete at Notre Dame is no easy feat. Just the rigors of class alone are enough to send students into fits of panic, not to mention finding time for practice, time in the weight room, training table, travel and games. However, Notre Dame seems to draw the caliber of individuals who shine under this special brand of pressure. Courtney Watson was just this sort of student-athlete. Not only did he excel both on and off the field, he also spent an entire year serving on the student senate, representing his dorm Zahm Hall, as well as shining on the courts of Bookstore Basketball. Courtney had the chance to sit down with me this week and reminisce about his time at Notre Dame and where life has taken him after football. And without further ado ... Courtney Watson!

Q: Growing up in Sarasota, Florida, how did you end up playing football at Notre Dame and not at a school near home?

A: "I wasn’t really interested in playing football at Notre Dame until I met Coach Urban Meyer. The only things I knew about ND were gold helmets and Touchdown Jesus. Coach Meyer took me through an education process of what Notre Dame is all about from the time I met him until the time I got up there. Being from Florida, where a ton of kids go on to play football for a school in the state or at an SEC school, I decided to take a leap of faith and follow the opportunity that I was being offered by Notre Dame. I let my academics and football skills take me somewhere I normally would not have gone."

"I played both football and basketball in high school so I made my recruiting visit to Notre Dame while the students were on winter break and barely anyone was on campus. My student host was Tony Fisher and I also spent time with Terrance Howard, Brock Williams and Jabari Holloway."

"I really hit it off with the guys on my recruiting visit. We were similar in a lot of ways. They told me that if I came to Notre Dame I would get a great college experience, that I would be pushed academically to achieve success in the classroom, and that unlike many other schools the athletes were not separated from the rest of the student body. This was a big selling point for me but I didn’t completely realize this until I was a student at ND. By not spending all of your time with other football players you gain so many more collegiate experiences. You get a chance to make lifelong friends outside of this little bubble of football. That’s very rare at most big-time football schools. I was able to sit around my dorm, make friends with people who were different from me, from different parts of the country. They were interested in me and I was interested in them and they truly inspired me."

Q: What is your best Notre Dame football memory?

A: "Wait, I have to pick one?" (laughs)

"Off the top of my head the first thing that comes to mind is when I got to speak at the pep rally before the Michigan game (it was either my fifth year or my senior year). At the time I was on the student senate and my Zahm Hall guys were seated front and center at the pep rally. They all made signs with my head shot from the football program on them. There were 50 or 60 of them chanting “Senator Watson” through the whole pep rally…no matter who was speaking (including through Coach Willingham’s speech). Until it was my turn to speak, of course, and then they got quiet."

"On the field my favorite memory would have to be playing (and beating) Florida State in Tallahassee. Being from Florida I had a ton of family and friends at the game and I also had an interception. To play that well, to beat FSU at home, that was such a high for me and for the whole team. There were very few games that I remember being nervous before, having butterflies, and not being able to control my emotions -- this was one of those games."

Q: What was it like playing for Bob Davie? Tyrone Willingham? 

Courtney Watson tackles Michigan tailback Chris Perry.
A: "The biggest difference that I noticed between the two coaches was their management styles."

"Coach Willingham was a delegator. His management style was looking at the big picture. He let his coaches do more of the teaching and day-to-day instruction. Once he and his staff decided on the game plan for the week and what we were going to be taught, he was a “macro” manager. Coach Willingham understood that there was much more to being Notre Dame’s head football coach than the day-to-day coaching."

"Coach Davie was more of an Xs and Os guy. He was very hands on in the everyday process. Because of Coach Davie’s style of “micro” managing there was a lot of back and forth and changes made to the game plan during the course of the week. Sometimes when you micromanage like that you can get tunnel vision on certain things and forget about everything else that needs to be done. Coach Davie was one of those mad scientist type of guys. You could lock him in a room for 12 hours and what he’d emerge with would be nothing short of brilliant. 

However, what happens when you have such tunnel vision is you lose focus on everything else that is going on. Coach Davie didn’t want to deal with all of the global head coaching responsibilities -- all he wanted to do was coach football. Unfortunately there is much more to the job than just that."

"They were both able to get results. They just each went about it very differently."

Q: Can you talk about your bookstore basketball success?

A: "I participated in the Bookstore Basketball tournament for three years. My team won the tournament twice and we made it to the final four three times. To my knowledge I am the only scholarship athlete that can say they won it twice. Carlisle Holiday and Justin Tuck were both Division I basketball recruits (in addition to football) out of high school and neither one of them can say that. I loved playing bookstore basketball. I loved playing basketball growing up, even more so than playing football probably. I quit football for a while in high school to focus on basketball until my coach (who coached both teams) told me that I was an idiot and that I needed to go back and play football."

"Basketball was always my first love. I always played on a bookstore basketball team with guys in my dorm. It was never a super team, but we played all year round and had a really great time. We played a lot of pickup games at the Joyce Center together. It was really important to me to go out and play with the guys that I lived with. We built a great camaraderie living and playing ball together. Bookstore basketball is such a remarkable thing -- I love how the student body comes out to support all of the teams. It was a great way to end spring football and celebrate the arrival of spring on campus. I always explain to people how our dorms acted as our fraternities and sororities on campus."

Q: Can you talk about your role as a Zahm senator?

A: "Prior to moving into Zahm Hall I heard a lot of bad stories about the dorm from some of the upperclassmen on the football team, but I absolutely loved living in Zahm. I loved my roommates. The guys were crazy and completely nuts -- probably because everyone said the guys who lived in Zahm were crazy and nuts and they were trying to live up to the reputation. You know, the day before first semester finals start, the guys run through LaFortune and the second floor of the library wearing, um, bells. Yeah, those are Zahm guys. Not only were they crazy, but they voted for me to be their student senate representative."

"The year they voted me to the student senate they had a legitimate candidate -- he had posters, gave speeches, was on the ballot. Then two days before the election my buddies convinced me to run. We got a bull horn and walked around the night before the voting and told people to vote for me/write my name in on the ballot…and I won. Those crazy Zahm guys!"

Q: Tell us what it was like to be on the student senate?

A: "I’m not sure I realized going into it how much of a time commitment was required of you when you were on the student senate. We would meet every Tuesday. There was one person from every dorm on the senate, plus a president, vice president, and secretary. It was my job to represent what the guys from Zahm wanted from the different issues that the student senate was discussing. It was really cool. I would do a weekly meeting in the dorm to tell them what we talked about at the last senate meeting and what was up for discussion at the one. It was really fun and I wished I could have done it again but time wise it was tough."

"Tuesday was our long day of football practice and in order for me to go to the senate meetings I would have to miss part of the team meeting and the first part of practice. Coach Willingham was okay with that for one year but I didn’t want to push my luck beyond that. It was an amazing experience. It was nice to be part of something bigger and to see how the student senate went about getting things accomplished. All of the student activities on campus that are not sponsored by a specific group – they are all put on by the student senate. At first I had no idea they did so much. I really got to see the inner workings of what happens on campus."

Q: Can you compare the highs of 2002 with the lows of 2003?

A: "They are very similar for me. When you have those highs, you try to keep everything in check, so it is really not that high. And the same goes for the lows. You try to take everything in stride, regardless of how good or bad it’s all going, and you work hard every day to get even better. You are always focusing on the next year. The next season.

But at the same time, to have those highs and to have them at Notre Dame…that was incredible. I’d rather have those highs at Notre Dame than anywhere else. I haven’t been there in almost ten years, and we didn’t win a national championship, but the teams I played on are remembered as if they had played for a championship. At most other schools you don’t get remembered unless you won a championship. We didn’t realize at the time that our team was going to go down in Notre Dame history. It made me incredibly proud this past season when they compared our team to the 2012 team -- they compared me to Manti Te’o. We are considered one of the great all time defenses at ND."

Q: How do you remember your NFL draft?

A: "My NFL draft wasn’t supposed to be very stressful, but of course, it was. It didn’t need to be, but it was self-inflicted. We had a good idea as to what round I was going to be drafted in, just not which team. I had family over to the house and I was feeling pretty comfortable. For me it was going to be a celebration regardless of where I went. It started out mostly as family being with me watching the draft but as the day wore on more and more people came over. I knew I wasn’t going to be drafted in the first round. There was a chance that I would be drafted in the middle to end of the second round but more likely at some point in the third."

Stay tuned for more in the
“Where are they now?” series!
"The problem was that myself and my agent thought I would go ahead of certain other linebackers, so when people like Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman came off the board before me my mood started to change. I really thought that I would go before them and they were coming off the board much earlier than we had anticipated. It was another 20 picks before I was drafted. That was only about an hour time difference but it seemed like a week."

"You had to submit two different phone numbers for the draft and so I had two phones sitting in front of me. It got to the point where I had people checking to make sure the phones were working. I was sure that there must be something wrong with my phones. I was frustrated and completely distraught. I went into the back room and just closed the door. I had to separate myself from what was going on. Calm down. Talk myself back into reality. When the phone rang I ran out to get the phone and it was Jim Haslett from the Saints telling me they were going to draft me, and then I heard everyone out in the front room screaming because it was at the bottom of the TV screen. My Dad and Mom and my aunts all jumped on top of me on the bed. It was a great feeling."

Q: What was it like playing in the NFL? 

A: "The low for me was not the first time I got cut, but the second time I got cut, because at that point I pretty much knew that was it, that my NFL career was over. You don’t get much lower than that."
"The highs? Every game that I was able to go out there and play, to do what I had wanted to do my entire life -- that was a high for me. I’m not a person who gets all jacked up before a game, but to have that feeling, to know this is what it’s like to accomplish a lifetime goal, that was huge. Every time we went to a new city, a new locker room…every Sunday was better than the Sunday before. Those feelings were just the best feelings for me. It was the entire experience. There are only a select group of people who can say they graduated from Notre Dame and went on to play in the NFL -- I am in that select group."

Q: What was it like to play for the Saints post-Katrina?

A: "Post-Katrina was crazy. It was tough because a lot of people don’t remember that you couldn’t even get back into the city after the hurricane hit. Even if you didn’t have any damage to your material things you couldn’t even get back in to get them."

"First you couldn’t get in to the city at all. Then they were letting people in but only during the day time. Very quickly we realized, even though they were letting people back in, the city should not be open at all. There was no trash pickup. They had curfews set up to help prevent looting and vandalism. Marshall Law was in place. The National Guard was there, armed, sitting on top of Humvees. Gangs were fighting for territory. There were shootings every day. The NFL sends us back there and we had to live like that. I was renting in New Orleans and my home was in Florida so I had to find a new place to rent in a decent area…which just didn’t exist. There was just random crime all the time."

"The NFL and the Saints did a great job at putting a band-aid on the dome but the city was in absolute chaos. It was very sobering to see. It was an experience like no other. It was sad to see how many people not only lost everything they owned, but loved ones, too. The whole experience was crazy. You could go weeks at a time and it would not come up…but even now, every time it comes up, it completely takes me back there and I can remember it vividly."

Q: Where did life take you after football?

A: "During my first year after I was cut from the NFL I pretty much worked out in the hopes that someone would pick me up. I tried to stay in shape and showcase my talents but no one expressed any interest in bringing me back to the game. I didn’t want to do that for two or three years. After one year I knew it was really over. There are always younger guys coming out of college who can do it faster, better, and cheaper. So at that point I knew I was truly retired."

"I didn’t really know what I wanted to do post-football. I planned on playing in the NFL for ten more years than what I did so I was not prepared for the transition into my next career. While I was playing in the NFL I had opened a restaurant back in Florida. My dad was running it and I was just kind of helping out, but I knew I wanted to do more than that."

"I ran into a few guys I went to high school with who were firefighters and one friend who was a fire chief and decided I wanted to learn more about what it took to be one. I signed up for the academy to see if it was something that I wanted to do. I knew I had a great degree from Notre Dame but I didn’t want to have a 9-5 job, that just wasn’t for me. The further along I got in the academy the more I knew this was where I belonged. I loved the crazy schedule. I loved being outside, working with the guys as a team. I really took to it and have not looked back since."

"I finished the academy and some medical schooling as well … it took me a year to finish the academy and I got hired by a fire house within three weeks. I started in July of 2009 and just celebrated four years here. I love it. It’s been the best decision that I’ve made since my decision to go to Notre Dame. I get to use my business degree as I move up the ranks and my schedule allows me to do side work as well."

"In addition to my work with the firehouse I speak to kids and sports teams and help out with their clinics here in the area. I have also developed a successful personal training business. I train young people/athletes, as well as doing personal training for individuals who are looking to get in better shape. My schedule allows me to do a lot of different things. I can give back to the community while I further my career. One of my long-term goals is to get more minorities into civil services -- both firefighting and the police. Where I grew up you were either really smart and went to college, or you really didn’t have any direction regarding your future. You don’t have to go to college to go into civil service. It’s a really good thing for kids who either can’t afford to go to college or don’t feel like college is a good fit for them. I want to create awareness within minority groups to the opportunities available to them in civil service. It’s a great way to have a career and be able to give back to your community."

"There is a lot of carryover from football to the police department and firefighting. Instead of being in a locker room you are in a fire station, but you still have to work together as a team, and you still need to be prepared for the situations you are going to face before you face them. You have to already know how you are going to react. Especially in dangerous situations, if you are not prepared, a life or death situation could go wrong very quickly. For those of us who played sports, we have developed a skill set that works very well in this sort of career – that’s a skill set that many people don’t have."

Q: What was it like being a student-athlete at Notre Dame? How did being a student-athlete at Notre Dame prepare you for life after college?

A: "Being a student-athlete at Notre Dame is quite a challenge. If you cannot manage your time well you will not succeed in the classroom or on the field. I’ve heard from talking to other guys who I played with in the NFL that they felt the NFL demanded so much of our time. If you don’t come from a place such as Notre Dame where that is the norm, you are going to struggle."

"At Notre Dame you are taking a real class schedule with your peers who are very smart. 85% of my classes are legit classes that everyone else had to take. You have to manage class, practice, games, media request. You’ve got to eat and try to have a social life, too. Notre Dame taught me how to juggle all of the demands that were put upon my time.

Being a red shirt freshman was great for me. I knew I was not going to play that first year, but that if I showed up on time and worked out I would have chances. That year gave me an opportunity to transition into school and the rigors of Notre Dame. If I had been like Julius Jones or Gerome Sapp and have played as a true freshman it would have been a lot more difficult for me. I took the year to learn about myself, about being away from home, and how the system worked. I got myself into a groove and was more than ready to play the following year."

"My freshman year in Zahm, each section had a flag football team. The games were at night during the week and I played in every flag football game with my freshman section. This helped me stay in shape while I was red-shirted. What I learned is that when there are so many demands on your time, when you actually have some free time, you should do your best to fill it with something you like to do. When you have a free hour, take advantage of that free hour and use it well because you never know when you’re going to have another one."

"As a red shirt freshman, I went from being a starter in high school to being a whipping boy and stuck on the sideline at Notre Dame. Playing flag football with my Zahm dorm mates gave me an opportunity to be out on the field and having some fun playing football which is all I ever wanted to do!"

Q: What advice would you give current student athletes?

A: "Try to get engaged in non-football activities while you are in school. It is a great chance to go out and meet people who will become lifelong friends. There is more to life than just football. Mingle, meet people who can support you in the non-football aspects of your life. Take advantage of all opportunities put in front of you in college. Get engaged and be involved."

"I worked in the Zahm hall cafeteria on Sunday nights cooking pizza and selling soda. It was awesome to be an integral part of the dorm and have a chance to really meet and get to know people. I went to college to get an experience and I wanted to take advantage of everything I possibly could."

I’d like to give a big thank you to Courtney for stopping by the blog. It was an absolute pleasure to walk through his journey with him. Stay tuned for many more great stories in the “Where are they now?” series!
If you enjoy these “Where are they now?” pieces, please check out my new book: “Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became.”


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Will Rick Mirer Someday Coach At Notre Dame?

Rick Mirer, former Seattle Seahawk Quarterback
Story by Alex Strouf

I was lucky enough to exchange a couple questions-and-answers with the #2 pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, Rick Mirer. Here's how the interview went.

Alex Strouf: You were drafted second overall 20 years ago ('93). What was the coolest thing about the draft experience?

Rick Mirer: I decided not to go to NY for the draft so I could spend the time with my family. I'm really glad I did it that way. What a day.

AS: You played for several teams over the course of your career. What was that experience like? Is there a favorite? 

RM: It was a little more moving around than I planned on, but all the stops have a story. I loved the first couple of years in Seattle with Tom Flores. What a gentleman. Green Bay was unique, San Francisco and Oakland were much easier on my growing family. I met great people all along the way.

AS: Are you happy with the way your career ended, or did you wish to stick with one team throughout your career?

RM: I'm satisfied in the fact that I stopped on my own terms. I played 12 years and woke up one day and said, that's it. It was time to stop moving and I have never regretted the decision.

AS: What's the post-NFL life like?

RM: Post football life is interesting. Quickly everything became about family which I love. Then it became time to find something to do. I have done many different things to help grow my Mirer Family Foundation, coached several years of youth football,  and I started Mirror Napa Valley in 2008. Never a dull moment.

AS: I recently saw that you coach Pop Warner football. Is there any chance you get back to your old stomping grounds of Notre Dame?

RM: Actually, coaching at Notre Dame has crossed my mind. The idea of going back intrigues me in certain ways. I miss being challenged weekly with game plans and opponents. I think I could help Brian Kelly in a variety of ways. Who knows? 

Who knows is right! That was an awesome interview experience, and I would personally love to see Rick go over to Notre Dame and join the coaching staff. Special thanks to Rick Mirer for making this happen. You can donate to the Mirer Family Foundation HERE and check out Mirror Wine Company HERE.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Help Oscar McBride and "Fit 4 Life Youth Foundation" | The Men We Became Raffle

In honor of BEAT USC week I'd like to help out the Irish Player Charities charity of the month, Oscar McBride's "Fit 4 Life Youth Foundation."

Fit4Life Youth Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation founded with the immediate goal of combating America’s fastest growing health epidemic – childhood obesity.
Statistics illustrate the breadth of this epidemic, its negative health consequences, and its cost to Americans. Fit4Life is proud to join this battle and become a leader in the fight by offering programs to get our youth moving towards a healthier lifestyle.
One of the most critical factors in combating the epidemic of obese and overweight children is meeting the challenge of getting our kids to exercise more.  Part of this process requires organizations such at Fit4Life to offer fun and inspiring, yet challenging exercise programs that will engage and encourage our children toward a lifetime of fitness.  This process also requires instruction and education to balance proper nutrition with the appropriate level of fitness.
By offering a variety of programs, Fit4Life hopes to reach all youth.   No one is immune to the economic and societal consequences brought on by the multitude of health conditions suffered due to childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is an epidemic, one that does not discriminate.  It touches all of us.
Beyond physical fitness programs, Fit4Life also seeks to educate its participants on the importance of education, character and leadership development through its mentorship programs which use sport, culture and positive life experiences as the relational platform. Please visit our Programs and Headlines pages to see our most recent endeavors. 

To help Oscar's foundation I am holding a raffle this week. The winning entry will win a copy of "The Men We Became" signed by:

Tony Rice - 88 Championship Team
Pat Terrell - 88 Championship Team
John Foley - 88 Championship Team
Marv Russell - 73 Championship Team
Rick Mirer - Class of 93
Reggie Brooks - Class of 93
Oscar McBride - Class of 94

To enter the raffle please donate $10 to my paypal account through LKND93@sbcglobal.net along with your name and contact information.

On Saturday morning, October 19th I will draw one lucky winner who will win a signed copy of the book.

All proceeds will be donated to Oscar's "Fit 4 Life Youth Foundation."

Thank you in advance for your support and GO IRISH!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Help the Mirer Family Foundation | Shamrock Series Ticket Raffle

Notre Dame will be playing Arizona State in Arlington Texas on October 5, 2013.  In connection with the game, the Mirer Family Foundation hosting an on-line raffle.  There will be multiple winners. There will also be interim drawings as donations come in.  Any one who donates $25 to the Mirer Family Foundation through our PayPal account between now and September 28th will get one chance in the raffle.

Prizes for Final Drawing:

The grand prize will be 2 tickets to the game, 2 VIP tickets to the Notre Dame October 4, 2013 lunch in Ft. Worth, a full size Notre Dame football autographed by Rick Mirer and a Lisa Kelly autographed copy of newly released The Men We Became.

Prizes 2-5 (4 winners)-  2 VIP tickets to the Notre Dame October 4, 2013 lunch in Ft. Worth, a mini Notre Dame football helmet autographed by Rick Mirer and a Lisa Kelly autographed copy of newly released The Men We Became.

Interim Drawings:

As donations are received, we will be drawing for a Lisa Kelly autographed copy of The Men We Became.  The first 50 donors will be in the first drawing.  When we reach 100 donors there will be a second drawing with all 100 donors eligible.  The following drawings will be held  at each 100 level (i.e. 200, 300, etc.).  Initial donors will be in all drawings, thus for best odds move quickly.

Shamrock Series on-line raffle.  Donate $25 per chance to win our prizes including the grand prize of 2 ND vs. ASU game tickets in Dallas, 2 VIP luncheon tickets and an autographed ball.  All donations between now and September 28, 2013 qualify!

Donate HERE


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Game of Football

Guest post | Oscar McBride

In light of the recent allegations and controversies swirling around our favorite collegiate and professional football teams, I thought I would take a moment to point out some of the great things the game presents.

Now that said, it would have been much easier for me to jump on the bandwagon and add my minimal kerosene to the proverbial fire; but I thought to myself, “Why?” Seems that’s a recurring question regarding the sport so many of us know and love today ... “why?”

Let’s dig a little deeper shall we?

Whether it’s the “Thug Life” mentality of former New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez, the seemingly juvenile behavior of “Johnny Football,” NCAA violations running rampant in the SEC (duh), or the most recent scandal which could ultimately destroy a thriving Oklahoma State program we all tune in to see when the next hammer will fall and who’s head it might crush on impact. Forgetting about the real reason any of this stuff is happening …

Hello people! It’s all because some young man has a talent to play one of the greatest games ever invented … football.

Wait … wait … before your guys go all ACLU on me I’m not taking anything away from basketball, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, track & field, tennis, swimming, rugby, golf, cricket, boxing, equestrian, MMA or ahh-hem … cheerleading … all I’m saying is that football makes sense to me.

Lemme ‘splain.

Football is truly "America's Game."

The struggle of the game makes sense. All of the hard work for months for only a few minutes of glory to be realized or dreams to be smashed. Honestly, did you ever do the math about how much time players spend in the off-season preparing for a total of only 480 minutes (8 hours) in high school and usually only 720 minutes (12 hours) in college? Can you say 8-9 months of struggle, work, pain and preparation for one live day?

Think about it … when’s the last time you worked on a job for nine months and didn’t get paid?

Uh huh ... That’s what I thought.

All of the disciplines, feelings, emotions and experiences that football teaches (in my mind) out-weigh all of the perversions that come with the success it brings. Hard work, tenacity, family, team work, selflessness, timeliness, focus, relentlessness, confidence, sacrifice, intelligence, fearlessness, bravery, joy, happiness, sadness, hope, fear, anger, brotherhood, camaraderie, intensity, vulnerability, swagger, power, anxiety, discipline, stress, ferocity, passion, and love are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of football.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what NCAA rules or laws are being broken by the athletes who play – we love the game and what it represents. The players of today will one day be replaced by others who are just as good if not better than they … and when that time comes we will continue to, much like we do today, celebrate the game of football!

Sport is Life -

Oscar McBride


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Easy With the Doomsday Predictions

The Wolverines defeated the Fighting Irish Saturday night, 41-30. Here, the Irish’s Chris Brown is tackled by Michigan’s Delonte Hollowell after making a catch.
(Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

No one likes to lose to Michigan. Ever. But I don't think the end of the world is any closer either. While the defense still has much work to do, the offense actually looks pretty good ... and will only get better from here in my humble opinion.

Lets take a look at how the offense produced on Saturday.

Tommy Rees - Rees completed twenty-nine of fifty-one passes for 314 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. This was also the first time in his career that he had back-to-back games where he passed for more than 300 yards (346 yards against Temple on August 31). The two touchdowns that he threw against Michigan bring his career totals to 39 and his season totals to five. Rees also moved passed Jarious Jackson ('99, 4,820 yards) into sixth place all-time in career passing yardage at Notre Dame with a new total of 5,073 yards.

Yes, I know, two interceptions, but Tommy's offense scored 30 points. How many points does this offense need to score to win games? (Edit: Okay ... so the offense scored 23 points and the defense scored 7 points ... how many points does our offense need to score on a weekly basis to win games?)

TJ Jones - Jones caught his first touchdown of the season, the 11th of his career, and snagged nine catches for 94 yards in the match-up against Michigan. Jones' punt return for 18 yards in the first quarter was the longest of his career, and the longest punt return by a Notre Dame player since Michael Floyd returned a punt for 41 yards in 2011 against Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. (We can all hope that Jones follows in Floyd's footsteps and goes on to make one-handed grabs like Floyd was making Sunday against the Rams.) And tell me again why we stopped running back punts? Anyways, I digress.

Troy  Niklas - Niklas caught six passes for 76 yards, one being for a score and the longest being 21 yards. We seem to be holding strong in our reputation as Tight End U. I am very much looking forward to watching this kid play.

DaVaris Daniels - Daniels caught six passes for 63 yards, the longest being 22 yards. (I'm not saying that Eifert will not be missed this year, but with Jones, Niklas and Daniels catching passes Notre Dame's passing game is bright to say the least.)

Chris Brown - Sophomore receiver, Brown, had three catches for 28 yards, his longest grab being for 11 yards.

Our receiving core looks tremendous and will only get better from here. We cannot, however, rely on our offense putting up huge numbers every game to make up for our defense not being able to hold or tackle anything.

Our running game, however, gave me fits of worry seeing as it was practically non-existent. This absence was not because we are lacking talent ... we've all seen what Carlisle, Atkinson and McDaniels can do. Carlisle had 12 carries for 65 yards, Atkinson had five carries for 39 yards and a 50 yard kickoff return in the third quarter (this was his longest since a 96-yard touchdown run back at Notre Dame Stadium against USC on Oct. 22, 2011), and McDaniel had a mere one carry for four yards. Why Kelly is not utilizing this running core more effectively I have no idea. Our offense has got to be much more diversified in its attack for us to be successful moving forward.

Hopefully after they review game film and begin preparing for Purdue they realize that all passing and no rushing is not going to win games. I truly am not overly worried about this offense. Rees has a stellar surrounding cast and the more experience he gets under his belt the less mistakes he is going to make. Purdue should be a good chance for us to tune things up before we return home to face Michigan State.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

NoCoastBias.com senior staff writer Lisa Kelly, recently published Notre Dame football author, is hosting a book signing event and Q&A with three Notre Dame football (88 national championship) greats!

Join Lisa and the guys in Chicago at Racine Plumbing on Saturday, September 14th for an “Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became” book signing event with a Q&A featuring:

Tony Rice, Pat Terrell, John Foley and author Lisa Kelly.

Books will be available for purchase and will be signed at the event.

Following the event we will watch the Notre Dame - Purdue Game!

Racine Plumbing
2642 North Lincoln Avenue 
Chicago, IL 60614

Saturday, September 14, 2013 from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM (CDT)

The Notre Dame Student-Athlete: Sports fans may have an idea of what it takes to play football at a Division I college: the training, the discipline, the pain, the motivation. But most of us have no idea what it takes to be a successful student-athlete at a top academic institution such as Notre Dame.

Being a successful student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame requires more effort than working two full-time jobs: one needs dedication, determination, and a drive to succeed - to be the best both physically and mentally - and to learn and achieve despite the pain, despite the disappointments, and without letting the successes – both on and off the field – inflate your ego.

Echoes From The End Zone: The Men We Became tells the story of 25 former Notre Dame football players:

•             the lessons they learned in college, and how those lessons changed their lives: The Notre Dame Value Stream
•             their years at Notre Dame
•             the end of their football careers
•             the new careers and dreams they followed

What happens to these exceptional Notre Dame student-athletes after they graduate? Some go on to play professional football, for a time. Some have injuries, and never have the opportunity to play sports professionally. Others experiment with different career choices, searching for the right fit. Many pursue career goals carried since childhood, while others build families, return to their hometowns, and travel the world. But all of these former student-athletes must create a new life after their playing days end: a life where they are no longer in the spotlight, no longer admired for their physical attributes, and no longer glorified in the media.

Their stories and career choices may surprise you, but by each of these former Notre Dame student-athletes you will be impressed and inspired by the choices they made so early in life that enabled them to succeed beyond The End Zone.

See you in Chicago!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Where Are They Now? Chris Yura

[Featured Image, Notre Dame vs. Florida State, Photo: 247Sports.com]
Growing up in the midst of the sprawling Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, one would think the only school looming on the horizon for Chris Yura would be WVU. But when his beloved Mountaineers played the Fighting Irish in the 1988 National Title game, it was another school that caught Yura’s eye — Notre Dame. Yura was a USA Today honorable mention prep All-American, ranked 73rd among the top 100 national players by the Chicago Sun Times, and a Kennedy Award winner as the West Virginia player of the year in 1997. Chris followed the mystique and lore of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to play fullback on their squad and he enrolled in the College of Arts & Letters. What does a Fighting Irish bruiser do with this varied background? Well, he founded SustainU, a company that produces athletic wear and collegiate apparel made completely from recycled materials. What path takes a young man from playing fullback and earning a sociology degree to producing a green clothing line? Come walk the journey with Chris Yura.

Q: How did you become interested in playing football for the University of Notre Dame instead of becoming a WVU Mountaineer?

Chris Yura, Notre Dame Safety,
Fullback and Special Teams
A: “I remember the first time I saw Notre Dame play was in the National Championship game in 1988 when I was 8 years old. I grew up 20 miles outside of Morgantown and we didn’t have cable television (in fact, we only had two channels growing up), but we did get the national title game. I remember how excited everyone was that WVU was in the national championship game, but even more so than that, I remember how excited everyone was that our opponent was Notre Dame. After that game Notre Dame took on a whole new life for me. ND wasn’t just a football school, it was a legendary place. I respected Notre Dame very early on in every aspect. Being from a small state I learned very quickly that in order to be noticed by colleges I needed to work harder than everyone else and produce on the field. The mountains in West Virginia were a great tool for me. They were great for agility and training leg strength. I trained in the woods and was lucky enough to excel at the high school level and began to receive offers from colleges including Notre Dame. I was one of the first players from my high school football class to commit. Notre Dame called and made me an offer right after signing day in February of my junior year.”

“My home state was not happy with me. My older brother Jon was a linebacker for the Mountaineers and everyone thought I would follow in his footsteps when, in my junior year, I was named the best player in the state. When I committed to Notre Dame I received some pretty bad backlash from the state. Players would punch me when we were piled up after a play. People in the crowd held up angry signs. Even some of the parents made comments to me about my decision. Notre Dame just meant so much to me I could not imagine going anywhere else and it did not matter to me what they thought.”

“The first time I went campus I was in awe. I remember going to camp at ND after my sophomore season and that’s where I first received some recognition from the coaching staff. Sitting in front of the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center and watching these huge guys show up for camp left quite an impression on me. I wasn’t really all that big or anything but I worked hard and made them notice me. The Notre Dame coaching staff cares about getting the best players they can get and about getting quality student-athletes who will do something after college. Fortunately for me I performed well enough at camp and got offered a full ride to the school. Driving home my dad and I were both in awe … like, did that really just happen?”

“The friends that I made at Notre Dame were from all over the country. Many of us came in as freshman not knowing a single soul. One of the things that makes ND so great is the diversity among the student body. The only other football player at Notre Dame who was from West Virginia was Bobbie Howard. (I met Bobbie at the football camp I attended at ND when I was in high school. Bobbie graduated before I was a freshman.) He made a big impression on me. He was very excited that there was a kid from West Virginia at camp. He was very welcoming and was a great advocate for the University, as well as being a great representative of the state of West Virginia. He left big shoes to fill but it was a tremendous experience.”

“Notre Dame becomes something that is always a part of you. Every time I go back to campus I feel very connected, as if I had never left. There is a real emotional connection to the University. I care as much about ND now as I did when I was there.”

Q: What is your best Notre Dame football memory?

A: “It is extremely hard to select one memory as my best Notre Dame football memory. There are so many moments that you remember. The first time I walked out of the tunnel and onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium; that was incredible. It was quite an accomplishment to get the opportunity to play as a true freshman, to get the chance to play in the home opener “Kickoff Classic” against Kansas in 1999. You get such a sense of awe seeing the fans, the spirit of the crowd, walking out of the tunnel, the feeling of being on the field for the first time, and knowing the responsibility of what you have to do. I don’t think I ran faster in all my life as I did on that opening kickoff. But at the same time you are so nervous. A few short months ago you were playing with high school kids, and now you are facing guys who have three and four years under their belt. You’ve been training in camp and feel prepared for the job, but nothing truly prepares you for that moment.”

Notre Dame Wide Receiver
Arnaz Battle
“We were undefeated my senior year going into the FSU game (on the road in Tallahassee). On the first play of the game Arnaz Battle caught a touchdown pass. Putting points up on the board so quickly like that and beating FSU at home to remain undefeated was an unforgettable moment for sure. From a game perspective, that was my favorite game. So many people thought we were untested and to go into Tallahassee like that to beat them was incredible. There are plenty of little memories that stay with me as well, like the fake punt against Boston College to get the first down, but everything about that FSU game was memorable. And not all memorable moments were winning ones. When we played Nebraska, stayed with them the whole game, but then lost in overtime. Even though it was gut-wrenching to lose on one play like that, we knew we had played our hearts out and gave it our all – that’s something I’ll never forget.”

“A lot of my favorite memories are off the field. The weight room was one of my favorite places, one where I felt the most at home. Such wonderful friendships were forged in the weight room — Gerome Sapp was my workout partner my freshman year. We had 6 am workouts, and we had to be there 10 minutes prior to the start time or we’d be punished. I lived out in Carroll hall, so in order to be up and ready in time to walk all the way across campus I had to get up at 4:40 am and leave the dorm at 5:20 am. All of my roommates were sleeping because they didn’t have class until 8 am. The mental toughness that is created from those situations, the friendships that are formed, the relationships with the coaches (my favorite strength coach: Mickey Marrotti) … those last a lifetime.”

“They are not just your teammates or your friends … they are individuals who will sacrifice for you to make you successful, and you would do the same thing for them, no questions asked. It was a big contrast for me compared to what I was used to in high school. What I saw at Notre Dame was there weren’t any stars – we were all equal and all on the same level. We didn’t really feel a great deal of competition, but rather we all worked together towards what either became everyone’s success or everyone’s failure. I really felt that I was a part of a cohesive unit, I felt that we were working together as a team, and that was a really amazing thing. A lot of Notre Dame players were the best player from their high school, city, or state; it was pretty much up to them to carry the load prior to college ball. But at Notre Dame we played as a team. The commitment level in high school was not across the board. At ND, everyone is working so hard, no individual stood out – we were united. Hard work with a group of people all buying into the same concept creates such a strong brotherhood and camaraderie – win or lose you all become successful.”

“It was really important to the coaches that every player knew they were an equal. Whether you were a first string quarterback or a walk-on, everyone’s effort and contribution was extremely important and a high level of production was expected from everyone. By doing this you eliminate the egos. If you let yourself not perform to your highest level you not only let yourself down but your teammates as well. I think training in this manner translates well onto the field. We had first round draft picks come out of that team, but for us as a team we never looked at anyone as a “star.” And those guys never felt they were better than everyone else. If I blocked for Julius (Jones), I was just as happy as if I was making the running play myself.”

“It is a refreshing feeling. In so many sports the focus is on the individuals. Football really is a team sport. You can see how one person’s block can either make a play happen or make a play NOT happen. Our coaches were very adamant in pointing this out, to make everyone see that everyone needs to do their part in order for a play to work. This was drilled into our heads and it was a huge takeaway for life after football. If you work for a company, every person’s job is crucial to the company’s success. In my business, some days I spend my time on the phone in conference calls, and some days I spend my time on the line tagging and bagging t-shirts. Both jobs are equally as important. There is no hierarchy here; we all need to pitch in to make this work. When you manage people like this, your employees see that they are an important part of the process even if all they are doing is packaging t-shirts for the consumer.”

Q: What was it like playing for Tyrone Willingham? And Bob Davie?

A: “I only got to play for Willingham for a year. From an engagement standpoint he was a super engaging guy. He was invested in all areas of the team. He would come out and run and catch balls at the beginning of practice. He brought in assistant coaches who formed a great supporting cast for him and who really supported and cared for us. My time with Coach Willingham was very positive and I’m glad that was my last season. We had so many great players on that team. I had some elbow injuries during my sophomore year and started dislocating my elbow repeatedly and so I was limited as to how productive I could be. At that point blocking was my biggest strength. To be a fullback and have your left arm taken away from you causes you to have to relearn how to do things. I could no longer take a handoff. This was another great learning experience for me: know your role. Know what your role is and that it is important. Take the limitations that you have and do your best. For me it was to block – that is what I did to help the team.”

“Coach Davie was the same way, he wanted production. In order to be productive you have to find a way to stay on the field. We had a great coaching staff that helped me find a way to stay out on the field.”

“I really liked Coach Davie a lot, too. He played at Youngstown State and he was familiar with kids from West Virginia and the way that we were raised. Kids from West Virginia may be from a small state, but it is a small state made up of strong individuals. I remember the first day he came in. He said, “I don’t want fine china, I want Tupperware.” That statement really stood out to me. I knew exactly what was required and expected of me. I needed to stay healthy, or get healthy, so that I could be productive. For me, his attitude towards toughness was spot on because he expected excellence and he rewarded excellence. So did Coach Meyer. He wanted you to be the best player you could be. It was proven time and time again on the field: if you were willing to work hard and be productive you were going to get a chance to play.”

“They switched me from safety to fullback and special teams after my freshman year. I spent a lot of time with Urban Meyer working on special teams. He saw my work ethic and what I could offer to the team. That I would do whatever it took no matter what my size. Size really is a relative thing and leverage is the name of the game. That group of coaches really knew how to bring out the best in us. I respected Coach Davie as a person and I really enjoyed playing for him. Having two years with Coach Meyer helped me develop a great deal as a player. He likes guys who are willing to give 110 percent all the time and it’s a great plan for heading into the rest of your life.”

Stay tuned for more in the
“Where are they now/” series!
“Effort is a choice, talent is not. I love being able to look back at a situation and being able to say that I did everything that I possibly could have done. There never was a day when I didn’t. Knowing that is extremely satisfying. I have no regrets. No “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments. And I take the same approach to my business. There are days where you have disappointments, but as long as you worked as hard as you could have then you will still have peace with the situation.”

“Having that internal determination helps when you face the road blocks and keeps you humble in your successes. I’ve been in business (SustainU) for four years now and we’ve grown so much, but all of the disappointments we’ve been through have been great learning lessons. Even if it doesn’t work, as long as you’ve given it your all, it’s all good.”

It’s like a mountain; just take it one step at a time. If you doubt yourself at the beginning, you’ve already failed.

“Our strength coach, Mickey Marrotti (now at Ohio State), would always push us until we could go no further. Push us so hard that it would take away our mental limitations. If you have no gauge as to when you’ve reached your goal, you just keep going. It’s a great tool to be used and be taught. It can be taught if you’re willing to give the effort no matter how great or small your talents.”

“My Dad was a Child Psychologist for years and then went into Forensics. He knew no limits.”

Q: In the 2001 Fiesta Bowl (against Oregon State) – Did you have any idea how good Oregon State really was?

A: “We knew that Oregon State was going to be tough. We trained very hard going into that game — maybe too hard. We were hitting at practice every day and quite a few of us were pretty worn down by the time we got to game day. (We didn’t hit as much during the weeks of that season as we did during the weeks leading up to the Oregon State Game under Coach Davie). Between the season wearing us down and the hard practices going into Arizona we may have been a bit overextended. Going into that game we felt confident in our abilities, but we just weren’t able to produce.”

“I’m not sure that we thought that Oregon State was THAT good. Before it was announced that we were playing them we didn’t even realize that they were in the mix, let alone that talented. The only teams that we had both played were Southern Cal and Stanford, and we beat USC pretty handily that year. It’s difficult to compare schedules. They had a lot of guys from the Junior College system that year and they had a lot of fresh players. I remember feeling that a lot of us were just really beat down by the time we got to that game.”

Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Notre Dame student-athlete? How did Notre Dame prepare you for life after college?

A: “You are not just asked to compete on the field but in the classroom as well. I really enjoyed that challenge, academically, to be put in the same classes as kids who had this incredible intellect – the kids at the tops of their high school classes. The minute I stepped onto the field at Notre Dame I got so much faster because the competition was so much faster. My brain had to evolve to being faster and quicker. In the classroom the same thing happened. You are suddenly in class with these very bright students and they push you to get better and better.”

“I remember feeling that everyone else knew so much more than I did academically. I asked my roommates what their SAT scores were and they had these crazy high scores. I had never even heard of anyone scoring so highly on those college entrance exams. We had a great tutoring network at Notre Dame and I found myself becoming more studious and organizing my time better. I learned that I enjoyed writing, which I had never done much of previously. I did better than I had ever thought possible and it was only the first semester my freshman year. I evolved so much in the classroom.”

“They held us to the same standard academically that they held us to athletically. They had the infrastructure and support system in place to make this work. If you have enough talent to get into Notre Dame you will be successful both on and off the field. For me it was a challenge but I was more than ready to accept the challenge. I became a much better person based on the people with whom I surrounded myself. This really set me up for success in life not just after football but after Notre Dame.”

“The smarter the student-athlete is off the field, then the smarter they are on the field. If you learn the strategy in the classroom, it absolutely translates onto the field because football is such a strategic, thinking game. This made us a better team all-around and helped us to perform better on the field. I think that is such a huge part of the concept of the student-athlete at Notre Dame. I hope they never stray from that mantra. Notre Dame does a great job at setting up its student-athletes up for success both on and off the field, because let’s face it, football does not last forever and you need to have something to fall back on after your football career is over.”

“Notre Dame does a great job of choosing people who will represent the school well both on and off the field. You need to be a Notre Dame man (or woman)- there is no separation between who you are on the field and who you are off the field. You are a student-athlete: it’s all one being, and that is very unique about the culture at Notre Dame especially when you look at what other schools expect out of their student-athletes.”

Q: Where did life take you after football?

Chris Yura, CEO of sustainable
clothing company.
A: “Like anything in life, I don’t think anyone knows where they are going to end up. You end up where God wants you to be. I definitely believe there is a purpose behind all things. All of the experiences I had leading up to Notre Dame, being at Notre Dame, and life after Notre Dame all somehow fit together. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a strength coach. I attended a training camp that was held at WVU back in the 1980’s and I got this training booklet and did the workouts every day from when I was 12 years old. I loved that part of football. It was impactful to me and you always want to be impactful to others in your life.”

“When I graduated from Notre Dame I wanted to go on and get my masters degree, but before that I decided to go into personal training for a while. I got a job at the Four Seasons hotel in Miami through an alumni connection. They did a cheesy promotional photo of me, in a tuxedo shirt with a dumbbell in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, which ended up running on the front page of the Miami Herald. As a result of that photo I got a call from Ford Modeling and was offered a job modeling in New York City.”

“When I was at ND, the guys used to tease me that I looked like an Abercrombie model, but then when you get approached like that to model in New York City for a top modeling agency, what could they say? It was crazy.”

“I didn’t know anything about modeling but I knew I wanted to get as many life experiences as possible and wasn’t sure if I really wanted to pursue strength coaching so I seized the opportunity and moved to New York City to model for Ford Modeling agency. I thought to myself, ‘Why not?!’ I learned about all different walks of life, I learned what it was like to live in a big city, and I got the chance to volunteer with charities in the city which exposed me to urban poverty. I also learned a great deal about the fashion industry.”

“I began to see the relationships between clothing and people. I thought about “The Shirt” back at Notre Dame. How the money raised from “The Shirt” project does so much good for students in need at ND. How clothing has this unifying effect on people. You see it in many other things like pink breast cancer awareness clothing. What I was also seeing is that sourcing and materials were coming from third world countries, exploiting people and using materials that were harmful to the earth. So even though “unifying” clothing was doing good things (i.e.: breast cancer awareness and “The Shirt”), it was being harmful as well.”

“What if clothing could be more sustainable? What if you could make clothing and help people in the process? I began to do some research into how clothing was made and what happened to the factories in the Carolinas after NAFTA. In 1997, 40 percent of the clothing we wore was made in the United States. Now it is around 2 percent.”

“I started to wonder what happened to these vacant factories. I did some research in the New York City public library and at the Fashion Institute of Technology Library, learning about what fibers would be better to use, how to produce clothing with less chemicals, fewer pesticides in the cotton, without using child labor. I started to learn about all of the environmental impacts from the production of clothing. Being from West Virginia, a coal state, I saw what the aftermath of the coaling industry. It is something I’ve cared a lot about since I was a kid because I love the state I am from. West Virginia is one of the prettiest places on earth with incredible natural beauty, but when the extraction of natural resources is not kept in balance it can produce very negative effects for the people and environment. I also was exposed to reality of poverty in the United States from an early age and wanted to find a way to create jobs in my home state with an environmental progressive mantra. I started to see potential in clothing industry to create jobs domestically with innovation and more sustainable fibers. The light-bulb went off and I felt that this could be a great business idea and something I could bring back home.”

“Living in New York City, I was in disguise as a model and trying to start a clothing business. I started making contacts and cold calls: can I come work in your factory? Can I learn more about your business? I moved to North Carolina and worked in a factory putting labels in t-shirts. I started learning about recycled fibers and where 100% recycled fibers could come from. I learned about all of this cool technology and that there were a lot of domestic resources that I could tap into.”

“The Appalachia/Tennessee/Carolina region had so many resources. I got some really great breaks, wrote a business plan, got some interns from West Virginia University to help me out, moved back home into my parents house in 2009 (right when the recession hit) and told my mom and dad that this could be really great, could create jobs, and make a difference. They knew I was going to work hard and give it my all. My dad had been let go from his job so in order to help me get the capital that I needed to start my business they took out a third mortgage on their house and I started buying the materials to make one single shirt.”

“A university group who does education in sustainability became interested in what I was doing and was willing to buy 1,000 shirts from me if I was able to make them from recycled products. The challenge was on and it worked. With the help of interns who are now a part of my full time staff, who were willing to take a chance and learn this domestic apparel business, I was able to take on the investment, have paid off the lien on my parent’s house, and have been in business for four years now.”

“I truly believe that God has a plan for you; you just have to trust that you are where you are supposed to be. A green clothing line in West Virginia? Come on!”

“I knew that there were vacant factories out there and that people wanted to work — especially in these regions. The people who lost their jobs at the factories in the Carolinas and Tennessee, they didn’t want to lose their jobs. The work had been shipped off to China and the Dominican Republic and they had no say in the matter. There is so much greed in the fashion industry. What if you took away the greed and replaced it with principles that matter and with sustainability? That is exactly what we did in creating SustainU.”

SustainU: For ND By ND
“In 2009, we sold 10,000 shirts that first year, and this year (2013) we’ll sell over a quarter of a million. Next year, hopefully, we’ll sell a million shirts. This will create more green jobs and just keep giving back. People have realized that once we ship jobs overseas we become a shell economy, so growing jobs domestically is very important right now. The biggest honor for me was when we got the license to sell Notre Dame apparel. The licensing department at Notre Dame has been extremely helpful to me in supporting my cause. They’ve been behind me completely. I held off on reaching out to them until we were strong enough as a business to support the demand of the Notre Dame family, and that the business was where we wanted it to be before we put it in front of the Notre Dame alumni and fans. I am so proud to be able to make a 100 percent recycled, USA made Notre Dame t-shirt.”

“People are really in tuned into what we are doing as landfills are becoming full, and it makes sense because we can actually make things from these recycled products and create jobs all at the same time. To be able to make something in America out of recycled materials is incredible. To be able to make this with environmental stewardship makes so much sense for us.”

“We should not be exploiters of this world. We should all be looking into how we can reinvest in the infrastructure that we have abandoned. We only have two percent of people in the United States wearing American-made clothing so we have a lot of room for growth. This is very exciting for me. How does this become scalable? How do we grow? The scaling of all of this has been a lot more feasible than I ever imagined. As we produce more our price becomes more affordable. We have a very unique offering in today’s marketplace but I hope that more clothing companies get into this market as well. As other companies are looking to enter our market we are being looked to for advice and counsel. So many people don’t know that there are companies in the United States that CAN do this. It is a very exciting time for me. Lots of challenges are ahead but it’s the perfect time to invest back into the American economy. Being able to make Notre Dame products is the icing on the cake for me. I stand for the same values and principles as the University that I love. As an alumni and a former football player I want to be able to give back to the school who gave me the tools to get where I am today.”

Q: What advice would you give current student athletes?

A: “Football is an amazing medium, but what else are you in school for as a student-athlete? Football was a way for me to get where I am today. People in my company make fun of me because I use so many football analogies (all the time), but everything we learned on the field is all relatively the same in terms of how you go about the challenges in your life. Notre Dame prepared me for not only talking about the glory days of football but also to be a productive person in society.”

“My advice would be that if you are not taking a class right now that you feel really passionate about, find one. If there is a topic that you do feel passionate about, look and see where that could potentially lead in your life and where that can lead you to your future.”

“I can point exactly to the classes in my sociology major which sparked the ideas that have led me to where I am today.”

“If you don’t have a class like this, then change your schedule – find it and see where your passion might lead you further you in life. Whatever job you end up in, you should feel passionate about it.I know guys who make a lot of money but are miserable because they hate what they do. If you have passion for what you do, you will be successful in life and you will be impactful on others.”

Check out Chris’ clothing line at SustainU.com and Forndbynd.com

I’d like to give a big thank you to Chris for stopping by the blog. It was an absolute pleasure to walk through his journey with him. Stay tuned for many more great stories in the “Where are they now?” series! If you enjoy this series, you can also read more stories in my new book, “Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became” available for purchase on August 1st.