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Weis and Lombardi

Guest SirJohn

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Guest SirJohn

USC owns ND?



When Irish, Weis are smiling


With Charlie in charge, things look golden at Notre Dame






Charlie Weis traded in glory of winning Super Bowls with Patriots for chance to turn around program at Notre Dame.



Golden Dome at Notre Dame is shining bright again with Irish at 4-1.


South Bend, Ind. - They say you can learn a lot about a man by the way he furnishes his office. Charlie Weis' office has a poster of Vince Lombardi with the words to his famous "The No. 1 Speech" which begins, "Winning is not a sometimes thing."

Notre Dame's new football coach has been sending out a paragraph a week to his players as motivation and, just recently, he received an audiotape of the speech from Lombardi's son Vince Jr., which has become one of his prized posessions.


There are also pictures in the office of Weis' family, a small statue of Knute Rockne and a red and white USC baseball cap with the words, "USC owns Notre Dame" on it.


"I've already worn it to a couple staff meetings," Weis says. "I imagine I'll wear it a few more times to team meetings on game week. If we win, I'm going to pull that baby out."


The 12th-ranked Irish will play the top-ranked and two-time defending national champion Trojans (5-0) here Saturday at 2:30 p.m.


For the first time since 1993, when the second-ranked, 7-0 Irish played top-ranked Florida State, there is buzz on campus about a big game. And Weis, a 48-year-old Jersey guy and a Notre Dame alum (Class of '78) has been a major reason.


Weis wasn't the first choice for this job after the school fired Tyrone Willingham last season, but he's starting to look like the right choice, arriving here from the Super Bowl sidelines of New England and leading his team to a 4-1 start.


Weis is a true believer in the glorious possibilities of Notre Dame and he has the personal experience to prove it. He spent his four undergraduate years living in Flanner Hall, which has since been turned into an administration building. He was a suitemate of running back Terry Euricks and watched the Irish win a national championship in football, and reach its only Final Four in basketball his senior year. "Never missed a game," he says.


"I was a typical Catholic kid," he says. "On Sunday morning you would watch Notre Dame highlights and go to church. I still remember Lindsey Nelson: 'And now, onto further action in the third quarter.' I didn't know where South Bend, Ind., was, but that's where your interest was piqued when you start looking at schools. I wanted to go to a school that was between 5,000 and 10,000 students."


Weis hated the cold Midwest winters, but loved the friends he made at Notre Dame. "The only problem," he says, "is I have more friends now because they see you as a pipeline for tickets. I got a good education. I think having that paper from Notre Dame definitely helped me when it came to the interview process."


Coaching Notre Dame had always been one of Weis' two dream jobs. The other was the New York Giants. Weis interviewed for the Giants' head coaching job two years ago, but lost out to Tom Coughlin. He was sought out by the Miami Dolphins when that job opened last December, but he resisted the temptation.


When Weis arrived in South Bend he discovered what he already knew. "I thought I would find a team that was disenchanted, maybe disgruntled. They had finished the year with a bad taste (after a 41-10 loss at USC)," he says. "They had a popular coach who was let go. Any time that happens, it's never a comfortable situation."


Weis made a point of talking with the players on two different occasions his first day on the job. "The first time I talked to them, I had a lot of other people in the room so I gave the public version of what I had to say," he says. "The next time I talked to them, I gave the private version, and it wasn't exactly the same messsage. Basically, what I said was, 'Quit blaming everybody else. If you weren't 6-6, the head coach would still be here.'"



* * *

Weis knew Notre Dame's storied program had become just another blip on the college football screen where fans rationalized the Fighting Irish's lack of success with a never-ending series of excuses - the coaching change, the recruiting, the faulty X's and O's, a schedule that had four of the first five games on the road and the supposedly uncompromising admissions' standards. Weis has refused to use any of them as a crutch. Instead, he has coached this team to four road victories, over Pitt, Michigan, Washington and Purdue, deploying an NFL-style offense that has averaged more than 500 yards of offense in four of five games. His quarterback is Brady Quinn, a junior who has completed 65.3% of his passes for 1,310 yards and 13 TDs. "I think Brady can win the Heisman Trophy next year," Weis says.


Weis originally wanted to be a sports announcer, but was drawn to coaching because he felt starting salaries in communications were low. He worked his way up through the high school coaching ranks in places like Boonton and Morristown, N.J., where he also taught English. "I enjoyed being a high school teacher more than being a coach," he says. "I loved teaching. That's what I think is my greatest strength - teaching - because football has become much more of an intellectual game. The best coaches are teachers, because in some classrooms you're going to have a wide range of intellects. In the NFL, you may have a guy who's a magna cum laude from Stanford, but you may also have a guy who flunked out of school. . . . You have to be astute enough to figure out how not to bore this guy, but how to get the message through to the other guy."


Weis took a job as an assistant at South Carolina in 1985. Two years later he met with coach Joe Morrison and asked to take on greater responsbilities. A few hours after the meeting, Morrison suffered a fatal heart attack and soon after Weis was out of a job. He coached Franklin (N.J.) Township to a state championship the next fall, then caught his first big break in 1990 when Al Groh, who was on Morrison's staff, landed an assistant's job with the Giants and told Bill Parcells about this young workaholic. Parcells hired Weis part-time to break down film.


Weis lived in a tiny apartment and spent at least two nights a week sleeping in the office, and he left an impression. His apprenticeship led to three stints with Parcells: three years with the Giants, four years with the Patriots and three with the Jets. Weis also spent five years in New England as Bill Belichick's coordinator. "I thought I had died and gone to heaven," Weis says. "Think about it: You're not coaching and you just got hired by Bill Parcells. No one believed me when I told them I got the job. That was one of the highlights working my way up."



* * *

Weis has become an instant celebrity in this football crazy town, where undergrads still play intramural tackle football on fields north of the campus, and women's club flag football is big news in the student paper. But he has been rarely seen on campus.


"I may come across with all this New Jersey arrogance to people who don't really know me," he says. "They have no idea that you think so much about family and caring."


There was a rare glimpse of Weis' private side two weeks ago when the story broke about him visiting a 10-year-old boy from South Bend who was dying from leukemia. A day after the child passed away, Weis called a play against the Huskies that the boy had suggested.


"I really felt bad that anybody found out that took place," Weis says. "His mother wanted everyone to know, almost like it would validate her son's life. I would have felt just as good about what I did with no one knowing."


Weis spends most of his free time with his wife Maura and their two children - Charlie, 11, and Hannah, 10.


"I enjoy this much more than the pros because I'm around my family," he says.


Weis met his wife, Maura, in 1991 at Liggett's, a pub in Manasquan on the Jersey Shore. The two were married a year and a half later. "She wasn't a football fan," he says. "That's probably why we got along so well. Of course, she's an expert now. Seriously, she's been great. I'll bet we haven't argued five times since we got married. At home, I never raise my voice. I never use bad words. I just kind of fit in. I call it separation of church and state."


Three years ago, the 6-1 Weis weighed 340 pounds and underwent gastro-intenstinal bypass surgery to lose weight. The word in Boston was that he did it to improve his appearance and make himself more attractive to NFL GMs, but Weis had other reasons. He had seen his father, who also had a weight problem, have a heart attack at 51 and die five years later.


Weis almost died from the operation. He was hospitalized for a month with internal bleeding and needed a wheelchair and a motor scooter to get around in Patriots' summer camp. He has since recovered, losing close to 100 pounds, but has no feeling in his right leg and walks with a limp. He has since sued doctors at Mass General. "I can't talk about the specifics because it's still in litigation," he says.


After Weis finally recovered in 2003, he and Maura decided to center their efforts around children with special needs - their daughter Hannah is globally developmentally delayed, meaning her motor and social skills as well as her speech are impaired - and the Weises realized they could make a difference in other children's lives. "We thought it was time for us to do something for people with special needs," he says, "so we started a charity - 'Hannah and Friends' - to raise money to buy practical things for kids with special needs from disadvantaged families."


The charity has raised more than $700,000. "George Steinbrenner just sent a check," Weis says, "and we just got one from Billy Connors."


Weis and Maura also plan to start a farm in South Carolina for young adults with special needs. "A lot of people don't think about young adults," Weis says. "They think about the kids. Our biggest concern was who's going to be taking care of Hannah when we die. . . . We'll be taking care of Hannah and a bunch of other people at the same time."

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Guest SirJohn

:D Weis guy :D Yes I'd say if your own Head Coach is wearing it that sort of sends a 'subtle" message to all. :lol:


I'd kill to get that damned cap off Coaches Head. :D

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