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Throwback Thursday: Former Notre Dame Football Player, Pat Terrell

Do you know how to drive this thing?

pat terrell notre dame miami Photo: JOHN BIEVER, SI

It hasn’t been the best week for me, so when trying to come up with a Throwback Thursday, I wanted something to put a smile not only on my face, but on yours as well. So I’ve decided to share one of my favorite stories, from the 80+ interviews I’ve conducted over the past several years: former Notre Dame Fighting Irish football player, Pat Terrell.

Not many guys make enough money playing in the NFL that they can retire when they are done playing. Pat looked at his NFL “retirement” as a great start into his new life. “I worked hard while I was still playing in the NFL to set myself up so that when I was done with football I’d still have something else to do. It was tough to focus on life after football and football at the same time. At Notre Dame I started out studying aerospace engineering, but I soon learned that I didn’t care why the plane flew — I just wanted to fly it. I switched majors and got a business degree and I am very glad that I did. It made my future opportunities more diverse. During the NFL off-season I got my pilot’s license and started my construction company. So many people suffer from depression when making the transition from the NFL to the rest of their lives. I wanted to make sure that I had something else that I was passionate about to carry me into my future.”

Pat, like all team sport athletes, always has a story about his teammates. “I was an airline pilot during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Shortly after 9/11 it seemed as if the TSA was changing our hijack procedures almost on a weekly basis. One week I was trained to do one thing, the next week I was trained to do something else. Roll the plane, no wait, do this instead. It was insane. At that point I was still in pretty good ‘football shape’ and decided I would have my own anti-hijacking procedure. My policy was that prior to every flight I would walk up and down the aisle of my plane so that my passengers could see me. Know this: if you intend to hijack my plane there is going to be one big angry dude in the cockpit.”

“One day, I’m preparing for a flight and I’m doing my little stroll and I see this guy leaning into the aisle and his eyes are as big as golf balls, it was Tony Rice! Tony knew I was a practical joker, and the last time he saw me I was still playing in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers. He could not for the life of him figure out why I was in a pilot uniform. Here I am, so happy to see him and so I invite him to come up and see the cockpit, and his eyes are still as big as golf balls. So I say, ‘come up and meet the crew.’ I have never seen Tony Rice drop an ounce of sweat. He is Mister Cool under pressure, and here was Tony sweating buckets. Tony looks at me and says, ‘Man, you know how to drive this thing?’ and I reply, ‘I know how to fly it!’ He looks back and says, ‘Pat, uh, I’m gonna go back to my seat and I’ll talk to you when we land.” (howling with laughter)

As much as I love the in-game football stories, the off-the-field stories are equally as interesting and just as entertaining. I hope you enjoyed this story, and I hope your week has been better than mine.

Cheers & GO IRISH!