Family Affair: My Love for Notre Dame

In an odd coincidence, I am writing my history of Notre Dame Football and writing in general, during Father’s Day Week.  However, in this case only the timing is coincidence to explain a love affair that began in November of 1980.  The helmets were gold, the quarterback was Blair Kiel and my father clad in a Notre Dame Green long sleeved t-shirt was glued to the television.  In those days, rules regulated how many times a team could appear on TV, so unless you attended games in person, your viewing options were limited.  On that November day, my dad watched Alabama and Notre Dame, and as a 6-year old, I wanted to be anywhere that my dad was.  Thus began a love for Notre Dame that exists to this day.  My dad, Notre Dame, and becoming a fan is no coincidence.

Though the Faust years saw a downturn for the Irish, my dad liked Gerry Faust and thought, he was a good person.  He always understood that Notre Dame stood for something bigger than victories on the field.  However, the victories would come in bunches during the Lou Holtz era.  Those teams also won in a style that featured a sound running game and physical defenses or “Blue-Collar” football as my dad called it.  Holtz’s style was a type of football that we both enjoyed.  Though the winning has been less consistent in the post-Lou Holtz era, our support for Notre Dame has never wavered.

As my youth passed, my own interest in football continued to grow and I was fortunate enough to play youth football, high school football, and football at the collegiate level (Division III).  I also began to develop an interest in writing, research, and teaching which put me into a career that combines the best of those elements as an American History teacher.  This passion for writing and football has continued beyond college in the form of writing for various blogs on Notre Dame Football and through the publication of four books on NFL and collegiate football history.

Looking back at nearly four decades of Notre Dame Football I realized I have witnessed in person a variety remarkable moments (both good and bad), here are five that standout.  (Note these are not in any particular order).

  1. Notre Dame 62, Rutgers 0. (Really – who lists that game?  Lou Holtz final game at Notre Dame.  I went out Thursday Night and a player’s parent tipped me off that he would announce he was leaving.  Though it had been speculated, I was shocked).
  2. Notre Dame 42, Northwestern 15. (2 Heisman Trophies – Beano Cook.  It was Ron Powlus’s much-heralded debut at Soldier Field.  I attended with some college teammates as we had just finished our inter-squad scrimmage and drove down to Chicago.  I remember thinking, Notre Dame was going to dominate with Ron Powlus, it did not exactly end up that way).
  3. Navy 46, Notre Dame 44. (Who puts a loss here?  In a very forgettable season for Notre Dame the win streak over Navy came to an end.  Maybe the only time I’ve been “ok” with a Notre Dame loss).
  4. Notre Dame 41, USC 31. (1st Time I ever saw a USC game in person. Notre Dame had a good team however, they might have peaked in this game?  Only problem, it was Week 7 – Note the last game my dad and I have attended to date).
  5. Notre Dame 49, USC 14. (The greatest beat down of USC I’ve seen in my lifetime live or on TV. At the time it looked like Notre Dame was playoff worthy, then Miami happened).

As I have grown into my adult life, love of Notre Dame has been passed to my daughter Riley who at the age of 6 already understands that football Friday means wearing her Notre Dame gear to school and the anticipation of cheering on our local high school where dad is a coach on Friday Night.  Saturday at our house will center around and family and Notre Dame as we anticipate a kickoff that NBC seems bent on making later and later!  Though her brother Breandan is a little behind her in age, it won’t be long before his fall weekends also center around the greatest university and football team in the world.  For in our house, our family and a school that typifies faith, ethics, and excellence, is not up for choosing.

I look forward to sharing my musings on Notre Dame this year and beyond and I’m humbled to be a part of Shake Down the Thunder Sports.  Follow me on twitter Jimmy Grant @IrishJimmy22


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