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|Brian Kelly fan|
I've got a confession to make.
I'm a Brian Kelly fan.
If there has ever been a team I wanted to lose from one Saturday to the next, it's been Notre Dame.
They were good for so long, they were an independent and they had their own network.
What's not to hate? Although Rudy is still on my top three list of sport movies.
But now along comes Brian Kelly and I like what I am seeing.
At his first press conference after being named head coach at Notre Dame, Kelly said, "Growing up as an Irish Catholic in Boston, Massachusetts, I'd come home from church after driving my parents crazy and listen to the reruns or the replays of Notre Dame football, and indelibly etched in my mind, in my vision was the great Lindsey Nelson talking about as we move further into the third quarter, the action, and Notre Dame playing that day. That was all that was on the TV in the Kelly house."
I loved listening to Lindsey Nelson and laughed at the reference to "and now we move to further action" which was a nice way of saying we're going past the boring part of the game during our highlights.
Speaking of Boston, I loved it when Kelly was talking about playing a football game in Yankee Stadium against Army.
"It's just I'm a Red Sox fan and I've got to wear pinstripes on the sideline," Kelly told Dan Patrick. "I'm going to have to get over that. I might have to pull something out. It won't be a Big Papi shirt, the way he's hitting right now."
But it's not just the flavorable quotes.
Kelly will bring winning back to South Bend.
He introduced a new drill called "tempo" at the first spring practice.
Irish players began running in waves at breakneck speed to get to the line and call a play.
And each time, Kelly's voice bellowed at somebody not moving fast enough for his liking.
The goal is for each offensive unit (first-, second- and third-string) to get off as many plays as possible in a short amount of time.
Kelly wasn't happy with the results.
"We stink right now," Kelly said. "I want them to think faster, I want them to walk faster, I want them to go to the bathroom faster." said Kelly. "I want them to do everything quicker than they've been doing it."
Les, are you listening?
His daughter's named is Grace Kelly — no accident.
He admits he has a long way to go with the Irish football program.
"Yes, we've got challenges," he said. "But we'll go to work on it right away, and we'll do that by continuing to recruit what I call the RKGs (right kind of guys), those that match the mission of this university. You have to have young men that are playing the game of football. They can't be playing because their girlfriend wants them to play or their dad wants them to play. They have to love to play this game. So in the recruiting process, as we go from coast to coast in finding that right profile, I want to be around players that love to play this game. I love being around it. If you're not passionate about what you do and how you do it, you probably won't connect with me. So I'm looking for that passion, and it's got to resonate with me in the recruiting process."
Sure, he left Cincinnati after leading them to an undefeated season and was not around for the Sugar Bowl. But would it have mattered? I know some coaches who hung around for bowl games and it was obvious their minds were miles away.
"Transition is very difficult, and those situations are extremely emotional," Kelly said. "But I handled myself in a manner that was up front and honest. The two watch words for me in dealing with our student-athletes and anybody is professionalism and integrity. And I believe that in those areas, that's the way I handled myself. When I had the opportunity to inform our team, I certainly did that.
I'm forever grateful to the players at the University of Cincinnati for what they gave me. They gave me this opportunity here at Notre Dame. Their work on the field gave me a great opportunity for my family, and for that I'm forever grateful. But transition is difficult.
Emotion gets involved, and I only wish all of them the very, very best. I love those guys back there in Cincinnati. I'm always going to be a Bearcat fan unless we have to play them. But you know, we try to make that work, but it's sometimes just impossible."
The Notre Dame job has been a lifelong dream for Kelly.
" I did not sit in my office and doodle the ND monogram as I was preparing for game after game," he said. "But when you get that chance to step back, you always look at it and say, boy, one day, one day if we could get this opportunity, this special opportunity, that would be a dream come true.
Grand Valley State head football coach Chuck Martin said Kelly had called on him to come to Central (Michigan) with him, as well as Cincinnati. He was asked if Martin will get a call to come to Notre Dame.
"First of all, Father John's salary is what he would get, and as Lou Holtz once said, he didn't know it but Father has a vow of poverty, so if Chuck is willing to come for free, we'll certainly talk Saturday night," Kelly said.
Kelly was asked what is it going to take to turn things around.
"Eating at Burger King at 3:00 in the morning is not going to make you the best for your 8:00 workouts," he said. "Not being on time, not paying attention to detail, not being purposeful in what you do on a day to day basis. Attention to detail is absolutely crucial in this process of winning, and so when I talk about working on winning, I mean you do that from the first day you step on this campus if you want to win. You don't win on Saturdays with Xs and Os. You win on Saturdays because you've been working on it all week, and so it's that attention to detail. It's morale, it's camaraderie, it's one voice. Those things are what I refer to as working on winning. They then show themselves on game day."
Sure, I know, it all sounds good. Something tells me Kelly will back the talk. I'm pulling for him. But, don't worry, I won't be building a golden dome or having Touchdown Jesus overlooking the backyard. They are still Notre Dame.