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Notre Dame Football Throwback Thursday: Irv Smith vs the Hoosiers

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Swervin’ Irvin

Irv Smith, Lisa Kelly, and Rick Mirer celebrate Notre Dame Football in the days leading up to the National Championship game in January of 2013.

As I started to plot out my “Throwback Thursday” posts for the season, a dear friend pointed out to me that seeing as this is the first time the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face the Ball State Cardinals, there won’t be a Notre Dame-Ball State throwback memory. So I’m going to adjust this week’s memory a bit to feature another Indiana opponent, the Hoosiers of the University of Indiana.

As a marketing major at Notre Dame, I had classes with several Notre Dame football players, including (but not limited to): Rick Mirer, Brian Ratigan, Jordan Halter, Junior Bryant, Nick Smith and Irv Smith. During my weekly Sunday phone calls home, I would tell my parents about how school was going, and about the friends I had made in my various classes. My dad, as a Notre Dame alum (and huge football fan), loved hearing about the football players who were in my classes. Well, my mom did, too. As a woman who did not attend college, she vicariously lived my college experience through me, which would later cause great embarrassment when she would get to meet them, but I’ll address that later. First, I want to highlight my favorite Irv Smith football moment.

In the 1991 Notre Dame football season opener, junior tight end Irv Smith (‘93) caught a pass from quarterback Rick Mirer (’93), and dragged an Indiana defender nearly 30 yards, as another pair of Hoosiers unsuccessfully tried to tackle him.

Here are Irv’s thoughts on the play: “The Indiana game (Sept. 7, 1991) when I dragged two Indiana defenders 20 yards to score a touchdown, is hands down my favorite Notre Dame memory. I’m not sure anything could top that. It was a home game, the opening game of my junior year and I had worked so hard to prove that I was good enough to be out there. I played baseball and football my first two years at ND. I liked baseball, but I loved football. I eventually gave up baseball to pursue football full-time, and that play made me realize that playing Notre Dame football was exactly where I wanted to be. It gave me the motivation to work hard to get my opportunity to shine.”

“It wasn’t even so much the actual play that sticks out in my mind so much, but the moment when Derek Brown and the guys picked me up in the end zone and tried to carry me off the field. As I was getting close to the side line I realized that Coach Holtz was screaming at me … ‘You’re on the field goal unit … get out there!’ Derek Brown was the man, the starter, the stud, and to see him happy for me was a real turning point for me.” (Excerpt from Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became)

In the below interview with Fighting Irish Digital Media, Smith, who also played baseball at Notre Dame, reflects upon the play and how head coach Lou Holtz’s motivation changed the course of his athletic career.

Okay, back to my embarrassing mother story. As my parents heard my stories about the football players who were in my classes, my mother decided she wanted to meet Irv Smith. During that same 1991 season, Notre Dame played the University of Hawaii in Hawaii, and my parents went to the game, and sent me to Toledo, Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents. During the course of the trip in Hawaii, the football players were given some free time to spend on the beach, and my mom was introducing herself to them, trying to find Irv. In the process she met Rick Mirer, who in turn returned to school and told me, “Hey, I met your mom on the beach in Hawaii.” Talk about being mortified ... I certainly was.

Flash forward to Notre Dame’s Sugar Bowl appearance in January of 1992. I was at the game with my parents and my best friend from college, Kristi Quinn, and we finally ran into Irv after the game. My mom proceeded to tell him how much she’d heard about him and that I’d told her that he was always so happy and positive. In his response to her, Irv didn’t miss a beat. He put one arm around me, and one arm around Kristi and said, “Well, when you’re surrounded by such wonderful company, how can you not be happy all of the time?” Oh Irv.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still on quite a high after beating Michigan last Saturday. I hope the boys can hold on to that intensity and put up some big numbers against Ball State.

Cheers & GO IRISH!