In celebration of Terry Hanratty’s birthday, which was this past Sunday, January 19th, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite Terry Hanratty stories. I had the privilege of interviewing Terry a few years ago, and when I say he was one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve ever done, that’s the absolute truth.
Here are some of my favorite stories that came out of my interview with Terry Hanratty.
To start, he told me about his beloved coach, Ara Parseghian, and the traits that made Ara such an incredible coach.
There are good college football coaches, there are great football coaches, and then there are coaches that are on a level all their own. Coach Ara Parseghian is definitely in this latter elite group.
Ara’s ability to have us 100% prepared for anything we could possibly face on Saturday was what made him such a talented head football coach. Back when I played at Notre Dame in the mid 1960s you couldn’t play your freshman year, so I was a starter for the next three years. I was never once surprised by anything I faced during a game. We won a lot of games but we lost a couple as well. Our losses were usually the result of a bad performance. The losses, however, were never from being unprepared or from not knowing what Ara expected of you. He had you completely ready with a phenomenally constructed game plan, and you felt 100% comfortable going into every game. You were extremely prepared for anything that was headed your way.
Quite honestly I think Ara Parseghian is a one-of-a-kind guy. You will not find anyone like him ever again. He was such a dynamic recruiter. He had this personality that was so magnetic; you just had to play for him. It’s truly something you can’t read or learn in a Coaching 101 book on “how to become Ara Parseghian,” it’s just not that simple. He had this honesty and fairness about him. I haven’t seen those qualities in a coach anywhere else.
Yes, Ara may have been dynamic, magnetic, fair and honest, but when it came time to get down to business, he was just that: all business.
When you’d screw up at practice, Ara would tell you to bend down and touch your toes and then he’d literally kick you in the butt. One day Ara came to practice and he was really upset. He said, “Dushney, get over here and bend down and touch your toes,” and then he kicked him in the butt. Then he said, “I know you’re going to screw up today so I’m going to go ahead and kick you in the butt now!”
All of the hard work and perseverance paid off for Hanratty, but life with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (and beyond) wasn’t all work and no play. His Notre Dame head coach, Ara Parseghian, did a great job of recognizing that Hanratty and his fellow teammates were still developing young men. Ara always kept a watchful eye on his players to make sure the balance between work and play didn’t tip to one extreme or the other.
Coach Parseghian had been notified by a few professors that some of his players were skipping class. As a result of this, Parseghian put Coach Boulac in charge of following these football players and making sure that they actually made it to class. One of my classrooms had a door into the class from the hallway. It also had another door which led out of the room from the back of class. We would go into class through the front door (while Coach Boulac was watching us) and then out the back door and over to “The Huddle.” This worked for a few days until Coach Boulac got wind of what we were doing. One day we did what we usually did and were sitting in The Huddle when in walked Coach Boulac. He caught us.
And then Terry dropped this story on me ...
Hanratty is the kind of guy who brings laughter with him wherever he goes. His time with the Steelers was no different.
Jack Lambert was a middle linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was one of the meanest guys in the NFL. No one would mess with him ... well, except for me! When I’d go into the locker room before practice, I’d go early enough so that I could place two cups of water underneath his shoulder pads, which were sitting on the top shelf of his locker. When he’d arrive to the locker room, he’d pull down his shoulder pads and the water would spill all over his face. I did it to him three days in a row. And for three days in a row he had water spill all over his face. Finally I told him, “You big dummy! Tomorrow morning, get up on your stool and look under your shoulder pads and if there’s water there, move the cups of water before taking down your shoulder pads.” The next morning, Jack gets up on his stool and looks underneath his shoulder pads, and there’s no water. He was so very proud of himself; he was strutting around the locker room as proud as a peacock. The next day, he comes to practice, pulls down his shoulder pad and water pours all over his face. I was 25-0 with different tricks on Lambert and he never got me once!
Terry, I hope you had the best birthday ever, and that your next trip around the sun is your best one yet.
Cheers & GO IRISH!