This week is the eighth week in my series on Notre Dame Fighting Irish national championship winning seasons, and this week I’m going to highlight the 1966 match-up between Notre Dame and the Purdue Boilermakers. The below excerpt, from the Notre Dame Football Review, shows how calm Terry Hanratty was in his Notre Dame football debut.
Friday, Hanratty Slept Well
National television and “Sports Illustrated” begin their coverage of the ‘66 season in South Bend and the Irish respond by unveiling their bombers. (by John Underwood)
ALL LAST WEEK as Notre Dame prepared to settle a score with Purdue Ara Parseghian was careful to speak softly when in the vicinity of Terry Hanratty. “I want to be casual, to be relaxed,” Parseghian explained. “I don’t want to get him nervous like me.” It was not easy, because Parseghian is the Notre Dame football coach and he is also a chatty fellow with impressible nerve endings. As he talked he had the pop-eyed look of a man who was holding his breath.
Hanratty is Notre Dame’s new quarterback. His uniform number is 5, which used to be the number of Paul Hornung, the famous swinger. Terrence Hugh Hanratty is stationary. Terry Hugh is 18 years old. He has soft eyes and sunken cheeks and a reputation for being a lamb. When he is sitting down he has a tentative look about him, as if you could remove his chair without altering his position.
In the final days of what the guard at the Notre Dame gate called “superclosed” practices for Purdue, Ara Parseghian could not believe the way Terry Hanratty was throwing the ball. What was more, he could not believe the way another sophomore, James Patrick Seymour, split end, Berkley. Mich., age 19, was catching the football.
The thing was, last year Notre Dame had a rosewater passing attack to go with its strong running, and on more than a few occasions the opposition had found out what Parseghian knew to be true. “On third down nine we were in jail,” he said.
In the match-up of quarterbacks with Purdue, it would be Rookie Hanratty against All-America Bob Griese, a brilliant performer who had started 22 straight games and had never once looked anything less than terrifying. The job he did on Notre Dame last year —- 19 of 22 passes for 283 yards, and the winning touchdown in the final seconds of a 25-21 game — was remembered with pain around South Bend.
It was doubtful, therefore, that the Notre Dame defense would be anywhere but up for the game. “The coaches do not have to say a thing to get us ready for Griese.” said Tackle Pete Duranko. The next big job, then, was to keep Hanratty calm, and, of course, there was no way to do that — big opening game, big rivalry, national television. Pressure, pressure, pressure.
Was Hanratty sufficiently terrorized? No, Hanratty was not. Hanratty was calm. He slept well. He had no trouble swallowing. His coaches found they could even kid him. Tom Pagna, the foreman of the offense, told Hanratty of his own first game at Miami of Ohio. “We were warming up before the game and I was surprised how relaxed I was. Then somebody threw me a pass and I couldn’t raise my hands to catch it. The ball hit me right in the helmet. ‘Oh, dear God,’ I thought, ‘I’m paralyzed.’ “ Hanratty laughed.
John Ray, the defensive coach, cut in. Ray had recruited Hanratty out of Butler High. “Don’t you let him worry you, Terry,” he boomed. “The defense will win the game anyway, and if you do all right I’ll let you become a linebacker.”
The plan would be to give Purdue the ball first, establish the defense and allow Hanratty a chance to get used to the ringing crowd noise. Then, after a couple of running plays, he would be free to throw the ball at his pleasure. “I would love to see them try to cover Seymour one-on-one,” said Parseghian. “One-on-one he’ll beat somebody and get us on the scoreboard.”
Hanratty did not pass until Notre Dame’s second possession. Then he wound up, and while being hit from the side completed a 42-yarder to Seymour. Seymour had to come back on the ball and made the catch between three defenders, but it was the beginning that set a pattern, maddening to Purdue and intoxicating to the 59,075 people snuggled into Notre Dame Stadium.
Seymour is 6 feet 4, 205 pounds and lean. He is a sprinter and has the essentials of a good receiver: 1) greedy hands, 2) a change of pace and 3) composure in traffic. On straight fly patterns and one-on-one coverage in the first half against Purdue, he consistently beat his man. Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf admitted later that “we didn’t realize how good he was.”
Hanratty ended all doubt with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Seymour to push the final score to 26-14. Seymour leaped to catch it, with 6-foot Halfback Bob Mangene flailing at him pitifully in the end zone. It was Seymour’s 13th reception of the day, giving him 276 yards gained in all. And no receiver in Notre Dame history, not Jack Snow or Jim Kelly or Leon Hart or Jim Mutscheller, ever had such a day.
Hanratty finished with 16 completions in 24 tries for 304 yards. Living his dream — he was the last man out of the Notre Dame dressing room — Hanratty seemed to want to remember everything, even every drop of his shower. When he finally emerged, John Ray grabbed him by a bare shoulder and said, “Hey, boy, aren’t you glad I brought you here?”
“Yessir, Coach, you bet,” said Terry Hanratty. “You bet I am.”
One more thing before I let you go. I also found this gem from Father Ted Hesburgh. I hope you enjoy it as well!
The Football Season: Fantasy and Reality
ANOTHER FOOTBALL SEASON has passed, another great and even fantastic one, thanks to Ara Parseghian, his staff, and his stalwart warriors who practiced hard, played hard against the best, and solidified a proud Notre Dame tradition of doing everything with style, spirit, and excellence. All of you helped too, and share the pride of many challenges well met.
A football season is a lot like life, in microcosm. The season begins with warm and sunny days filled with optimism and hope. As the season progresses, the sunshine wanes, the warmth diminishes, and optimistic hope is qualified by the hard lifelike realities of fierce competition, unexpected injuries, and the innate difficulty of sustained human effort. The days grow colder, the rains come, and optimistic vision becomes more realistic. It is always easier to declare the top position in anything than to reach it. While hope perdures, ultimate victory is again a fickle lady, ever to be wooed with all one’s might, but never in this life to be securely or forever won. Each week is a new encounter; each season a new challenge. Life is like that too, because it is spent in time, amid all the vicissitudes of personal trials and existential difficulties. Anyone who thinks otherwise lives in a dreamworld where reality has been entirely replaced by fantasy. But a football season, like life, is authentic and real, as well as somewhat fantastic.
So another football season passes, with all its very real excitement, effort, hope, youthful optimism, and ultimate success, the National Championship. You have lived with it and through it. The cheers all fade away into the dusk. The tissue-draped trees and lawns are cleaned up again for the last time. We return to the real and hard world of books, quizzes, and work yet to be done before the Christmas vacation begins. The stadium, stark and silent, is etched against a gray wintry sky. Nearby, the Library beckons with its myriad lights.
Was it all worthwhile, in this time and in this place? I think so, if we see the deeper meaning of it all. Reality is enriched by fantasy, if fantasy is allowed to illuminate reality, but not to engulf it. In another age, as harsh as our own, there were jousts and jesters, tournaments and trials of skill and strength to lighten the harshness and illumine the lessons of life. A football season has all the same qualities for our day. Life would be dull indeed without these interludes which, in their own mid twentieth-century American way, can explain life to us, make it more deeply understandable and, therefore, livable.
I say all of this in the face of those who in a seemingly superior intellectual fashion depreciate, denigrate, and deplore the football season in our land. Collision on the gridiron is still better, I believe, than violence in the streets. Both have their own relationship to equality of opportunity in America, one positive and one negative.
I would hope that in the larger university community in America we might see the football season, with all its appeal to young and old alike, in the perspective of a larger meaning of learning, and education, and life. The football season can, of course, be overdone, wrenched out of all perspective, so that even the fantastic becomes the phantasmagoric, as is done by prolonging the season unduly, indulging in an increasing orgy of bowl games, the psychedelic dream makers of collegiate football.
Kept within proper bounds of time, place, and emphasis, I believe strongly that the football season is indeed worthwhile. The noise is ephemeral and does die away. The display, the spectacle, the color, the excitement linger only in memory. But the spirit, the will to excel, and the will to win perdure. These human qualities are larger and much more important than the passing events that occasion them, just as the ebb and flow of all our daily efforts add up to something greater and more enduring if they create within each one of us a person who grows, who understands, who really lives, who does not merely survive, but who prevails for a larger, more meaningful victory in time and, hopefully, in eternity as well.
Thank you, Father Ted, that was beautiful.
Cheers & GO IRISH!