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One Man's Incredible Rise Through the NFL to Head Coach of Notre Dame
By Charlie Weis
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
"Notre Dame called last night. . . . I told them they could give you a call."
To this day I am not sure why I dialed the phone. I guess you could blame it on a lot of things, immaturity probably being the biggest. It was a Sunday afternoon in 1975, the day after Notre Dame's football team had lost a game and looked pretty bad doing so. For some reason, I believed that being a student of the university entitled me to issue a complaint about the team's performance. I thought it would be a good idea to take my complaint all the way to the top--to the office of Father Theodore Hesburgh, the school's president at the time.
To be honest, I was fully expecting to get an answering service. I was stunned when Father Hesburgh himself picked up at the other end. It had never dawned on me that he would be done with his Sunday masses and actually sitting in his office at that very moment, ready to answer his phone.
Father Hesburgh was caught off guard as well. He wasn't in the habit of fielding a lot of complaint calls from students. He made me come straight down to his office to tell him exactly what was on my mind.
My passion for sports and thinking that I knew everything there was to knowabout football--not to mention every other sport--had a lot to do with my being in that situation. When I sat in the stands at Notre Dame, I wasn't just watching the action on the field or on the court. To me, being at the game meant being a part of the game. Our football team won the national championship in 1977, my senior year. Our basketball team went to the Final Four. As a student who went to every game, I felt that I was part of the reason why the University of San Francisco's twenty-nine-game winning streak in basketball came to an end in '77 in our building, the Joyce Center, where the chant was "Twenty-nine . . . and one!" At Notre Dame, the whole student body has always believed it can affect the outcome of a game.
Notre Dame Stadium is like no other place you've ever gone to watch football. Not that there aren't fans everywhere that make a lot of noise, but a game at Notre Dame is something to experience. I still can't believe my eyes when I see, after every Notre Dame score, hundreds of people in the stands doing "air push-ups." That's where they lift people, often recruits who weigh as much as 350 pounds, into the air and do as many push-ups with them as we have points. Or how about fans who crowd surf sixty rows? You just won't find anything like it anywhere else.
But there should be a limit to your enthusiasm, and I had exceeded that limit with my complaint call to Father Hesburgh, who at the time was in his twenty-third year as Notre Dame's president. Father Hesburgh would lead the university for twelve more years until his retirement in 1987. He is considered one of the most influential figures in higher education in the twentieth century.
I walked into his office with my tail between my legs, scared to death that I had gotten myself into trouble. Father Hesburgh had a very intimidating aura. After I nervously shared my point of view on our football team, he basically told me that I didn't get a vote. What I thought about the football team wasn't important, he said; I should go back and be a good student who was loyal to the school and its teams, and not consider my opinion one that mattered.
Fortunately, the stern lecture was the extent of my punishment. But that didn't make it any less painful. I remember walking out of that office feeling as humbled as you could possibly be.
Now flash forward nearly thirty years, to early December 2004. Once again I was on the phone with a member of the administration at the University of Notre Dame. This time I was on the receiving end of the call, at my office in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, home of the New England Patriots.
I was going about my usual business as the Patriots' offensive coordinator, trying to help them win their third Super Bowl in four seasons. John Heisler, Notre Dame's senior associate athletics director, was asking whether I would be interested in speaking with Kevin White, the school's director of athletics, about replacing Tyrone Willingham, who had just been fired as head coach.
Imagine that. The opinionated fan who used to sit in the student section had an opinion about Notre Dame football that just might matter after all. It brought a sarcastic smile to my face.
I told John that protocol would be for Kevin to call Bill Beli-chick, the Patriots' head coach, to ask for permission to talk with me. Belichick got that call on Saturday night, December 4, while we were in Cleveland getting ready for our game the next day against the Browns. I was anxious to hear about what had transpired in the conversation between Bill and Kevin, but that wouldn't happen until Sunday morning, during our pregame meal, when Bill came up to me and said, "Notre Dame called last night. . . . I told them they could give you a call." Not that I was expecting him to tell me otherwise, but still it was a relief to hear that he had given his official blessing.
We beat the Browns, 42-15. On Tuesday morning, as we began game planning for our next opponent, Cincinnati, Kevin called to say he wanted to come to New England to interview me.
"When do you want to do that?" I asked.
"Today," he said.
"When are you available?"
"Any time after midnight."
"Any time after midnight."
Excerpted from No Excuses
by Charlie Weis
Copyright © 2006 by Charlie Weis.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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