This past weekend the rivalry between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Michigan Wolverines was once again renewed. It was also the reunion of the 1988 Notre Dame Championship team, and the annual Lou’s Lads Foundation Brunch. Typically the brunch takes place on the second Notre Dame home football weekend, but this year the date was adjusted to coincide with the celebration of the 1988 team. I was fortunate to be able to attend the event on Saturday and catch up with some of the guys. It was just magical to see them reconnect with each other, as well as reconnect with their beloved coach. They love to playfully comment that back in the day they didn’t really like that little tyrant of a coach, but today, their bond with Coach Holtz is strong, and they know that Coach would do anything for them. Holtz remarked in his 30 minute speech to the guys, “I told the players, ‘You do what I ask for four years, I’ll do what you ask me to do for 40 years.’ Thank God the 40 are almost up.”
The lads, who set up the foundation in Coach’s name, have made it a point to not only give back to the families of the lads who are suffering from hardships, but to also give back to their communities, in the name of their beloved coach.
The Lou’s Lads endowed scholarship fund now stands at more than a half-million dollars, with more than $100,000 in grants already awarded. At the brunch on Saturday morning, the 2018 scholarship recipient was three-time winner Richard Wilson (a Notre Dame junior from Indianapolis) who already has done extensive breast cancer research and eventually intends to pursue a doctorate degree in cell biology.
The foundation’s go-to charity is the Bread of Life Food Drive. I allows the lads to get involved with their local food pantries, and to collect food in the spring when many food pantries are running low. The lads and their food drive efforts, which began five years ago, have now provided 1,450,000 food items to shelters and food banks while growing the number of participating cities from 35 in 2014 to 210 this year. Executive director Joe Delaney challenged the Lou’s Lads members to ensure 100 former Irish players take part in the next drive in the spring of 2019.
The toughest part of the event was when the lads recognized their fellow teammates who are no longer with us. This always hits me hard as many of them were friends of mine. Far to many lads are gone, far too soon. The room observed a moment of silence to remember all those we’ve lost: Jeff Alm, Justin Hall (his wife and three children were in the audience), Bobby Satterfield, Braxston Banks, Dave Duerson, Demetrius DuBose, Mirko Jurkovic, Dean Brown, Wally Kleine, Kenny Spears and Rodney Culver.
To conclude the event, Coach Holtz himself got up and addressed the lads, and shared with all of us some of his favorite “Holtz-isms.” Here are a few of my favorites:
”Vinny Cerrato was the best recruiter in America. He alone accounted for more NCAA rules being put in place than anyone. We’re at the Orange Bowl and I’m calling plays and Vinny is right beside me with a cell phone talking to a prospect, and he says, ‘Coach, what’s the next play?’ And I’m trying to win a damn game.”
”I remember when we were going into the press conference after I was hired. Former Notre Dame University President Father Hesburgh said, ‘I’m going to go in and announce that you are the new football coach at Notre Dame. I cannot announce to the world you are the leader of the Notre Dame football team. I can give you a title, but the players will determine if you are a leader.’”
”If you didn’t show up, who would miss you and why?”
”We often don’t let people know that we care. Tell them you love them while they’re still around.”
”Every place I coached we gave the players questionnaires to fill out. But only at Notre Dame did I have to get a dictionary to read the answers because they used such big words.”
“Against Michigan in 1988 we had a five-foot-four kicker named Reggie Ho kick four field goals. I have to take credit for that success because I asked the grounds crew not to paint the goal posts. If they’d painted the goal posts some of those field goals wouldn’t have gone over.”
And then Coach Holtz did his grand finale, his famous newspaper trick. After he performed the trick, Holtz remarked, “Somebody said, ‘How do you do that?’ I said, ‘Perfectly, I thought.’”
The 1988 Championship Team was officially recognized on the field during the game to conclude the 30th anniversary celebration. I was able to connect with many of the guys over the weekend, including former Notre Dame nose tackle, Chris Zorich, who shared with me a little bit about what the Notre Dame vs. Michigan rivalry meant to him and his teammates.
City360tv is on location at Notre Dame covering their home opener against Michigan. Also, a great interview w/ former ND player Chris Zorich. Thanks to Cj's Pub of South Bend IN Connor's Pub and @Kelly Promotional Products. W/ host Lisa KellyPosted by Wnn Webisodes on Saturday, September 1, 2018
And just like that, another successful Notre Dame weekend is in the books! Stayed tuned for my Throwback Thursday post, later this week, which will feature a throwback from the Notre Dame vs. Indiana game in 1991.
Cheers & GO IRISH!