ESPN released the first two clips of today’s discussion between former Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden.
In the clips — which both run a bit more than 2 minutes long — Gruden asks Kizer to explain how the 2016 team went 4-8, what Kizer says to teammates after soul-crushing losses and he’s listening to on his phone before taking the field.
Gruden also asks Kizer to diagram the 39-yard pass play to Will Fuller that won the 2015 Virginia game. The clips are part of a larger segment called “Gruden’s QB Camp,” which is now in its eight season.
Gruden: Tell me about your leadership style.
[Final moments of the 2015 Stanford game appears on the television.]
Especially the DeShone in adversity. I mean, you guys lost some of the toughest games I’ve ever seen. You take your team back to beat Stanford. What a heck of a win! Somehow, they go down there and kick a game-ending field goal to beat you. That’s a long flight home to South Bend.
Kizer: It is.
Gruden: And you’ve really got to showcase your leadership then. Tell me about your leadership style with all the peaks and valleys.
Kizer: Yeah, I like to think of it as kind of within the constraints of my personality. I like to talk to my guys the way I’m talking to you right now. I want to be the same guy every day. The same poise you see within the pocket and out there is the same way I want to lead my guys off the field. But after a situation like Stanford, when you hop on that plane, I want to be able to have conversations with guys just like this to let them know that — the proper message is that this needs to fuel us to make sure we can get into a bowl game and play the right way.
I believe the best leaders are able to adapt to whatever situation they are in. If you can be the same leader, understand the situation that you’re in, and still be able to impact and communicate the right way, then your team should respond accordingly.
Gruden: Take me through that. I mean, you’re sitting here. You’re coming out 4-8. I know you’re bitter about it. But how do you explain what happened this year to Notre Dame fans and football fans?
Kizer: After reflecting on it and evaluating it as much as I can — the ball is my hand every play. Out of those eight losses, probably seven of them we have an opportunity to, within the fourth quarter, go down and score. Quite frankly, if you’re going to win those games, then the quarterback has to make those plays. So quite frankly, I just didn’t make enough plays in this past season. And it’s unfortunate and it kind of hurts. But that’s now what’s fueled me to make sure the next time I’m out there I can get back to winning the way I’ve always had and making those plays within the fourth quarter like I need to.
[Television plays slow motion video of Kizer walking into a practice field with headphones in his ears]
Gruden: What are you listening to there? What are you —?
Kizer: It could be anything.
Kizer: It could be Chicago. It could be Lil’ Wayne. It could be Kenny Chesney. You just never know with me.
Kizer: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Gruden: You might be my favorite quarterback this year.
Kizer: I like that. I like that.
Gruden: I like what you’re saying there. You’ve got a little versatility?
Kizer: A little bit.
Gruden: Every guy that’s sat in here, everybody says, “Future.” The next guy: “Future.” “Future.” Kenny Chesney, Lil’ Wayne. Chicago? I can deal with that.
[Television shows Brian Kelly calling timeout near the end of the 2015 game at Virginia]
Gruden: Can you remember this time out? I want to know what happened. The play you guys ran to get this win. The clock is running. But it was a double move. I don’t know what happened with the protection, but luckily your back came across here and picked this thing up. You got out of trouble and you threw a dagger, man. You threw a great ball to Fuller. This throw — this situation — handling the pressure, was a huge moment.
[Television shot is now “sad Virginia fan” hanging over brick wall.]
And man, those poor Virginia fans. They felt the pain, but -- draw this play here. The standard play out of trips.
Kizer: Right. So all this is is three slants. Your tight end here is kind of a “love of the game” type route. He’s just trying to clear out anything underneath, unless you get Mike pressure. If the middle linebacker blitzes, you can always replace him. But for the most part, everybody is going inside out off that nickel defender. And backside will have an individual, whether it be a speed out or hitch or anything we can possibly do backside.
Gruden: So when you’re playing Virginia, how did Fuller at the bottom of the screen end up running a slant and go?
Kizer: We had been baiting them all game. Even within this drive, we ran two slant calls on them and he drove the last one. Coach [Mike] Denbrock [the offensive coordinator] up top let us know in that timeout that, “Hey that corner has been driving Will this whole drive here. It’s time to give him a shot with under 20 seconds left. We’ve got to take a shot at the end zone if we’re going to win this game.” That corner drove up, just like he did a couple of plays earlier.
Gruden: That’s one of the great end-of-game plays in Notre Dame history right there. I mean, that’s awesome.
Kizer: That’s awesome. Yeah.
Gruden: But plays that start off looking the same that are different — a big part of your system, a big part of the system we’re going to get into today.
Gruden: That’s phenomenal.
Do you like pressure?
Kizer: I love it.
Gruden: No, seriously.
Kizer: Absolutely love it. I think that’s when I play my best. It’s the reason why we play this sport. To have everything — all eyes on you — and to be required to make plays to win games.