spent far too much money on a lunch had the privilege of attending the Notre Dame Club of Dallas’ UND Celebration. Here we honored our Person of the Year, Teachers of the Year, and also had a visit from Brian Kelly.
The later is clearly of interest to any regular reader of this blog, making this week’s Roundup a logical choice to share Kelly’s comments.
We will get to those in the Roundup proper, but first I wanted to share three things that I learned about Kelly during this event:
1. He knows how to work a room.
From the moment he walked into the private meet & greet reception, Kelly went to work. A quick joke about needing to stand next to the fireplace due to the unseasonably cold Dallas day immediately broke the ice, shifting the mood from an awkward moment of “well the head coach of ND football is here, now what?” into one of casual comfort almost immediately.
When I stepped up to have my photo taken with him, he took the initiative to introduce himself, even though none was needed on his end. Almost as soon as “pleasure to meet you, sir” escaped my lips, he made sure to be the first to ask a question of me (when I graduated) to kick off the small talk. Without missing a step, he paused his chit-chat to smile and pose for the camera, and resumed as if nothing had happened. Attentive enough to our conversation to give me the time of day, but still able to quickly end it to give his attention to the next person in line.
Son of a politician indeed.
Throughout his entire speech, he remained aware of his audience, Notre Dame Alumni who could very soon become “sources” and plaster his every last word on the internet (/whistles innocently). He knows that any one person could be ready to pounce on a hot-button issue at a moment’s notice; however, Kelly managed to diffuse any potential tension, managing to crack jokes and get the crowd to laugh — even if we were talking about horrendous Shamrock Series uniforms (more on that later).
Needless to say, this man knew what he was doing.
2. He is unbelievably candid.
Brian Kelly walked up to the podium with zero notes. After his speech, he was more than happy to do a Q&A session without screening any of them nor did he refuse to answer anything. He shot from the hip and said what was on his mind.
To put it another way: a son of a politician he is, an actual politician he is not.
This is how we get quotes like “get used to it” and proclamations that field turf is on the way when it isn’t. It’s a combination of entertaining and combustible instead of a political combo of cautious and calculating.
I know it can irk a lot of people, but personally, I love it.
3. He “gets” Notre Dame better than most give him credit for.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Brian Kelly and have been for some time now. Before this event though, I simply figured that he was a good football coach that really understood how the game of college football worked on and off the field.
Throughout his speech, and even during his Q&A, he consistently referred back to the mission of the University, taking every chance to drive home the point that excellence in football and the classroom aren’t mutually exclusive.
Kelly is often viewed as an agent of change at ND and for good reason. However, the noise of his vocal support for field turf and jumbotrons tends to drown out that his “Right Kinda Guys” wasn’t just some recruiting catchphrase. He believes in what Notre Dame stands for and I believe many of his answers below prove that.
Faith Restored. Brian Kelly started off the football portion of his speech in recapping the 2012 season and, in doing so, sold me on the fact that truly “gets” ND.
2012 for Notre Dame Football was a great year. I like to call it “Faith Restored”. There’s faith restored back into the principles that you can graduate all of your players and you can play the game of football the right way and you can do it to being number one in football on the field and number one in football off the field.
That’s why I took the job at Notre Dame. I believe that you can do it. We saw that you can do it.
Because all the things that you know about Notre Dame, they’re still occurring on a day to day basis. We haven’t changed our academic standards. We haven’t changed who we are and what our distinctions are…We can recruit young men, not having to apologize for who we are and what we stand for.
As it relates to faith — everybody first thinks about religion, but I will tell you that there is more going on at Notre Dame than just going to church. There’s more going on because, when we talk about faith, and you can feel it when you are on campus, it’s about restoring faith in the human spirit. That faith that you can trust somebody and not be cynical or think that there’s an agenda. And that is an environment that’s energizing.
So, just so you know, winning twelve games on the football field is still in lock-step with who we are in our identity at the University of Notre Dame and that’ll never change. I don’t want to be the football coach at Notre Dame that begins selling out on academics, taking kids that don’t want and understand the value of a Notre Dame degree. So when we’re in a home and we’re recruiting a young man, they’ve got to recognize those things.
At Notre Dame, those principles will not change.
2013 Outlook. So where does Kelly see the 2013 squad?
We’ve put 2012 in the rear-view mirror. Now, I don’t mind being reminded about it.
Yep, Kelly had jokes and the crowd definitely cracked up at this one. However, Kelly got back on track with his assessment:
I don’t live in the past and I don’t want our players living in the past and I certainly don’t mortgage our future. I live in the present. And the present right now is that our 2013 football team is in the process of constructing their own identity this year.
If I could give you a glimpse: it’s probably the sum is going to be greater than any one of the parts on this football team.
Got Youth? This quote was simply mind-blowing:
We had eighteen, eighteen freshman or first year players that were a part of [the Championship Game].
Your Shamrock Series Uniform freakout begins…NOW. This easily was my favorite part of the speech, mostly because I knew simply typing this quote would make heads explode:
And just to put some clarity to the Shamrock Series…it’s my chance to listen to everybody talk about our crazy uniforms. I love it.
And we got some uniforms this year. If you didn’t like the shamrock, and the blue shamrock, if you didn’t like that one, you’re going to hate this year’s. It’s gonna be awesome. So I’m just getting you ready for it.
And now, an actual explanation of Kelly’s views on the Shamrock Series. Come on, he can’t #TrollHard 24/7.
And we do it one time. One time only because tradition is important.
As Dolly [Duffy (who introduced Kelly)] said, you’re gonna look like a champion, you’re gonna act like a champion. And that tradition that Notre Dame has is unmatched and unlike any other.
But one time, and we try to do it in October…it’s Halloween for us.
Our guys like to dress up, and you have to understand my constituency group is also 18 to 21 year-olds. And they like the flashy jerseys and they like the look that that gives them and it helps us a little bit in recruiting and we’ll continue that Shamrock Series as a one shot deal.
Louis Nix continues to be the best ever. Even through BK quotes, Irish Chocolate shines:
By the way [Nix is] down to 352 [pounds], he wanted me to note that. That’s why he thought he could run an offensive play.
In the Spring Game, we put him in at the quarterback position and effectively everybody got out of the way and he ran in the endzone…He says he ran over everybody — I told the defense to get out of the way…he’ll be tweeting about that…
RIP Wild Chocolate. And after giving me some laughs, Kelly breaks my heart:
You better have that on DVR because that’s the last time you’ll see him on [offense] — and I was hesitant to do that because the worst thing that can happen is that he hurts his knee or something foolish like that.
In talking about Texas players, depth chart news! According to Kelly, Cam McDaniel is “going to play a lot of running back for us this year.” Jalen Brown “is going to get some playing time for us this year.”
RUN THE DAMN BALL! Someone asked Kelly how he would get GA3 to “run with his pads lower” and did I ever love the response:
You have to have those instincts. George is going learn those instincts or he’s going to have to stand next to me and I know he doesn’t like to stand next to me during the game.
Kelly went on to praise GA3’s spring and made sure to mention that he bypassed track season this year to focus on football full-time.
Being “right there” with Alabama. I know this quote from the early spring pressers raised some eyebrows and Kelly went a bit more in-depth on his assessment:
As we got a chance to step back and look at [the game against Alabama] more closely, we’re right there.
Now, there a lot of factors that go into that game. A 42 day layoff does not help a team that is at 80 scholarships at the time. We had really some unique circumstances that didn’t allow us to practice the way we would’ve liked to. We needed to play that game right after the USC game. I like our chances in that situation.
So my point being, is that, after getting a chance to look at it more critically, we didn’t play our best and that’s on me because our players were good enough to be in there and compete with Alabama. And so, we have to look at the preparation. We have to look at the moment, the enormity of the game, all those things being great experiences for this football team that, when we get an opportunity that happens to be Alabama again, you’ll see a team that is ready for that moment.
The forty year decision includes better NFL chances. Place this in the recruiting file:
We had six players that were drafted…and then we had seven players that signed as free agents. Now, just to put that in perspective that’s obviously 13 players, that’s our entire senior class.
I will tell you that the 48 hours leading up to the second day [of the NFL draft] was the busiest my phone has been since I’ve been at Notre Dame. Because they want to sign a Notre Dame kid because they know what he’s going to bring to the locker room.
They know, because they have their degrees, that this is just an experience. And if it sticks, fine, they’ll play it out. If not, they’ve got a Notre Dame degree that they can get on with. So they’re playing a game and they know that because they have their degree. Whereas XYZ school signs 12 or 13 [to NFL contracts], they need to make it in the NFL. Because if they don’t make it in the NFL, they don’t have their degree.
And so that’s a big difference when a GM calls and says you know “I want Goody because he’s got his degree” and he can come to these minicamps that are starting right now — if you don’t have your degree, you can’t be in minicamp.
And now, Jack Swarbrick Trick Shot Monday Dot GIF. Because why not (via):
In honor of Notre Dame potentially looking at a redesign of Notre Dame Stadium and considering Cinco de Mayo is around the corner, I am going to recommend a bit of drink construction this week.
Because why try to shove a lime into a Corona when you shove an entire Corona into a margarita? Plus your drink refills itself through the wonders of physics. Everybody wins.
Except your liver.