The last year has taken me places that I never thought I would have gone.
First … Biggest Fan of the Big East conference.
Now … Notre Dame football author.
In just one week (my how time flies) my new book on Notre Dame football: Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became will officially be released. I never intended to write a book, but I guess those are how the best journeys are started, right?
In case you have not been following my “Where Are They Now?” series … this is the interview that started it all!
“Where Are They Now? Oscar McBride”
The purpose of this series is to partly walk down memory lane with some of Notre Dame’s athletic greats, but also to show what they have done post Notre Dame, and after their pro careers, to really make a difference in this world.
My first interviewee is Oscar McBride, and he has certainly set the bar high.
Oscar McBride was born on July 23, 1972, in Gainesville, Fla. Growing up in Florida, Oscar had his heart set on going to Florida State University. That is until he made his official visit to Notre Dame.
Q: Growing up as a kid in Florida, what made you decide to go to Notre Dame?
A: “Two words … Irv Smith.”
“For all intents and purposes, I was headed to Florida State. My Aunt went to Florida State and it was at the top of my list. When Bobby Bowden came to the house to visit my family, he helped my Mom bring in the groceries and stayed for dinner. We were all sold on the idea of me going to Florida State. My official visit to Florida State was for the 1989 FSU-Miami game, a rivalry game that everyone looks forward to, and Florida State beat Miami that year in convincing fashion, 24-10. But when I made my official visit to Notre Dame, in the ever so appealing South Bend, Indiana (not), I met this dude with this big smile and dimples (Irv Smith) who just lit up the room. I met his best friend Nick Smith, and the rest of the guys on the team. I had an amazing weekend and left Notre Dame immediately feeling like I was already part of the Notre Dame family. Bye-bye Florida State.”
“I still remember going to the Orange Bowl scrimmage with my Mom. I saw Chris Zorich tackle Ricky Watters, and saw a huge fleck of gold fly off his helmet, and thought … dude … there is no way that I can play here. Rocket came over to the sidelines and said to me, “We can’t wait to have you here! We are going to win a National Championship next year!” And that’s all it took!”
Q: What was your best football memory during your time at Notre Dame?
A: Oscar had a difficult time coming up with one answer to this question, but he finally replied, “The ’93 football season, which was my senior year.”
“During the 1992 season, I played with a broken jaw and a fracture in my foot. There were all of these questions coming into the 1993 season. What kind of team will Notre Dame bring out this year? They don’t have a quarterback. They don’t have a tight end. They don’t have a running back. Ron Powlus was new to the scene. There were just so many unknowns, and nobody expected us to be as good as we were that year. We just completely played for each other. We had an amazing bunch of guys .. Jeff Burris, Lake Dawson, Marc Edwards, Jim Flannigan, Derrick Mayes, Aaron Taylor, Bryant Young, and Ray Zellars among others, and Coach Holtz did his best to downplay all of the questions and we just went about our business.”
Q: What is your memory of Draft Day?
A: “Prior to draft day I had several conversations with teams who were interested in me. They would tell me things like, ‘if you are still available by x round of the draft, we’d be thrilled to take you.’”
“The NFL Draft finally arrives. The first day, and the first two rounds, come and go, and I was not picked up by any teams. I was kind of bummed because the Chicago Bears had expressed a significant amount of interest, and instead took a punter in the second round. A punter?”
“The third round came and went. Then the fourth … fifth … sixth … Are you kidding me? The seventh round came and went, and still no one had chosen me. After the draft was complete, my phone started ringing off the hook with teams talking to me about their interested in picking me up as a free agent. At this point I say to myself, I am a Florida boy who has lived in freezing South Bend, Indiana for four years, and I have my pick of several teams; I am going to pick somewhere warm! I signed to play tight end for the Arizona Cardinals, and by the fourth game of the season, I was the starting tight end.”
Q: What are the best and worst things about playing in the NFL?
A: “The best part of playing in the NFL is that playing football, something that you love, is actually your job! The challenging part of playing in the NFL is the super long days. You get up early, come in, watch film, go to team meetings, go through each week’s game plan, go out on the field for the walk through, change, practice, eat lunch, work out, shower, more meetings …. The day is long, easily a 12 hour day, but at the end of the day you are still playing football for a living.”
“The worst part of playing in the NFL is the business side of the game. It’s not a matter of being the best player out there … it’s about signing the biggest and best contract and making the most money. Regardless of anyone’s talent level, if you are making the most money, then you are the man. I got signed at the league minimum of $119,000, and started 11 games as a rookie. I was told by coach Buddy Ryan that if I played, he would renegotiate my contract with me and compensate me with the equivalent of being a second round draft pick. We had a deal on the table, and then much to my surprise, after the 1995 season, Buddy Ryan was fired. They brought in Vince Tobin in 1996 and he drafted two additional tight ends, had no desire to renegotiate my contract, and that was the beginning of the end. Unless you are taken as a top draft pick, there is nothing guaranteed or set in stone.”
“After the 1996 season, I was signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. I was there from January until the first week of the season, at which point I was released. “
“After the first preseason game in 1996, I had gone in to talk to Marty Schottenheimer and his staff. I said to them, I know you picked up Tony Gonzalez in the draft. If you are going to cut me (which it seemed as though the writing was on the wall) please cut me now so that I have a chance to find a spot somewhere else. But they kept reassuring me that everything was okay. They told me, ‘You are great for us. There is nothing for you to be worried about.’”
“We were getting ready to play the Rams, the opening game of the season. The trainer was headed over to tape me up when I get tapped on the shoulder, ‘Coach needs to talk to you and bring your play book.’”
“I’m sitting there in Marty Schottenheimer’s office, and he says to me, ‘You were a big surprise to us in camp. You did a great job, but this is a monetary decision ….’”
“Just as I had feared, there was no team for me to go to. All rosters were set. There I was, stuck without a job. Had they released me earlier, I could have found something else, but this was all about the money. And there I was, stuck without a job.”
“When I left the NFL I was really bitter for a long time. I couldn’t watch football. I went through a period of depression. Finally one day, it dawned on me. You graduated from Notre Dame, go get a job. You are only 26 years old, go get a job. And that’s exactly what I did!”
Q: What did you do after football?
A: “My first job was as a regional manager for a company that did sales training for people in the car industry. Basically it was an inside sales job, calling upon car dealers, and teaching them how to train their sales reps to be more efficient and effective in their jobs. My territories were Michigan [the car sales Mecca of the United States], and South Carolina. I grew a very thick skin from that job and definitely learned to not take things personally.”
“My next job was in wholesale mortgage banking, and I did that for 11 years. I started out as a sales associate, progressed to National Sales Manager, and eventually made it to be a Vice President.”
“Then I decided to go back to school. I earned my Masters Degree and started teaching at the High School level as well as coaching football. I am currently working towards my Doctorate in Education, because I realize how much I enjoy working with young people. It is such a gift to be able to work with young people, to be able to help shape and mold young football players, both athletically and character wise. And because I have had similar experiences and have been exposed to many of the same situations that they are, I can impart upon them advice to help them make good choices.”
PLACT … coaching coaches.
“In 2008 I attended a National Catholic Educators Conference for teachers and coaches, and as I was looking over all of the seminars that were being offered, one in particular caught my eye. PLACT: Play Like A Champion Today. I thought to myself, hey, I know that! So I went in to the seminar, and Dr. F. Clark Powers was giving a presentation on the importance of developing your sport.
I am sitting in the front row, and am literally on the edge of my seat for the entire presentation. Following the seminar, I introduced myself to Dr. Clark Powers, ‘Hi, I am Oscar Mc’ … and before I can even get my name out he says, ‘You’re Oscar McBride and you played on the ’93 Championship team! You need to be involved in this!’ Within one year I was working with them as a consultant within the Los Angeles Archdiocese, and in October of 2010 they approached me about working for them in full time, and by January of 2011 I was a permanent feature of their staff.”
“There was a point in my life when I was really bitter at Notre Dame, but then I realized that it was not Notre Dame’s fault. I could have prepared myself better for the draft. I could have prepared myself better for the business aspect of the NFL. This was all a part of growing up and realizing that we all are in charge of our lives, and that you are given an opportunity to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.”
Q: What is your favorite Lou Holtz Memory?
A: “It is very difficult to pick just one favorite Lou Holtz memory, but this one would definitely be up at the top of the list. In December of 1991 we were down in New Orleans getting ready to play in the Sugar Bowl. No one expected us to win this bowl. No one even thought we belonged in this bowl. They kept telling us that we belonged in a cereal bowl. Our last team practice before the game was held in the convention center in full pads, on concrete, because it was raining outside. He calls us together after practice and gives us his rallying pep talk.”
“Lou began, ‘We have a big game coming up and I want to tell you about Steve Spurrier & our opponent.
Now here is what is going to happen tomorrow. We are going to get the ball on offense, we are going to give the ball to Jerome Bettis, and he is going to score on the first drive. Then we are going to come out on defense, we are going to get the ball back on a turnover, Jerome is going to get the ball back on offense, and he is going to score again. Then I want you to look across the field and you will see Steve Spurrier throw his headset on the ground and start to pout.’”
“January 1, 1992 … we take the field and Jerome gets the ball on offense. Jerome then scores on 45 yard touchdown play. The Gators get the ball back on offense, and Demetrius DuBose gets the interception giving us the ball back. Then Jerome comes back out and scores again. We look across the field and right before our eyes Spurrier throws down his head set, crosses his arms and starts to pout.”
“We all look at each other and say … ‘What just happened??’”
“After that moment, my level of respect for Coach Holtz went through the roof. I knew that not only had he studied the team and knew their tendencies, studied what they were going to do on offense, defense, and special teams; but he also had studied the manners of Coach Spurrier as well. He really went above and beyond in doing his job.”
So what is next for Oscar McBride? In addition to his involvement with Play Like a Champion Today and coaching at Capistrano Valley High School…he has written a book, “Relentless Wisdom: A Collection of Thoughts, Ideas and Opinions.” Relentless Wisdom examines the world of sports and athletics and encourages the reader to critically think about its evolution. In the book McBride encourages coaches, parents and athletes alike to “step up” their level of responsibility with regards to sport and the powerful impact it has on society.
He is also involved in Play Like a Champion Today’s Uganda initiative, which is promoting sports as a form of physical, moral and social development for the children in Uganda. His newest project is the release of his radio show on the TNNDN Radio Network to help teach others the importance of the development of character through sports.
“The most important part of being a good coach is imparting upon your players (and often times their parents, too) that making good decisions on the field can be translated into making good decisions in life,” McBride said.
I hope you have enjoyed my first installment of “Where Are They Now?” featuring former Notre Dame Athletes and how they are making their mark on the world. Stayed tuned for the next installment soon. I must say though, Oscar McBride is going to be tough to top!
If you enjoye Oscar’s interview, please check out my new book (for sale August 1st) … Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became.