From South Bend to West Point to Yankees Magazine
September 20, 2010 –
I was in South Bend, Indiana last week, where I conducted research and
interviews for my story on the history of the Notre Dame – Army football
rivalry, which will be renewed at Yankee Stadium on November 20.
The story will be
published in the October issue of Yankees
My research continued
at beautiful West Point on September 15, where I interviewed several Army
players along with their coach Rich Ellerson. Yankees team photographer Jim
Petrozzello was on hand to take portraits of Ellerson and a group of Army
The trip to West
Point was memorable, but the journey through South Bend was unforgettable.
On my first day in
rural Indiana, Yankees consultant and former Notre Dame gridiron great John
Mosley escorted Petrozzello and I into Father Theodore Hesbergh’s office, where
I interviewed the former Notre Dame president during a half-hour long visit.
Hesburgh presided over the university for 35 years and has been credited for
integrating Notre Dame’s student body.
After we left
Hesburgh’s (cigar) smoke-filled office, Mosley brought us to the practice
field, where I met a dozen former players, including a few who played at the
old Yankee Stadium during their time with the Irish.
As for the action on
the field, it was intense. Notre Dame’s new coach, Brian Kelly, is adored by
virtually everyone in South Bend – from the man at the car rental desk to
Hesburgh – but he isn’t taking anything for granted. He ran practice from the
field (not a watch tower like many other coaches), and while things seemed to
go smoothly from my vantage point, it didn’t stop Kelly from maintaining a high
volume at all times.
I interviewed several
players as they walked off the practice field and Petrozzello took portraits
shots of those players minutes later. Those photos are beautifully lit, and
they will stand out in the feature.
Reggie Brooks, a
celebrated running back, who rushed for 1,372 yards in 1992 and whose 7.6 yards
per carry is unmatched in Notre Dame’s history, joined us at dinner that night.
began with a tour of Notre Dame Stadium, one of America’s most storied venues.
When I walked into the home locker room, I felt like I was living a scene from
the movie “Rudy.” It felt surreal, and it reminded me of the first time I
stepped foot in the clubhouse at the old Yankee Stadium.
Rockne, Johnny Lujack, Joe Montana, Paul Horning, Nick Buoniconti. That’s who I
was thinking about when I walked down a narrow staircase and slapped the famous
“Play Like a Champion Today” sign.
11:45 a.m. on Friday, I interviewed Brian Kelly in his office. That was the
highlight of the trip. Regardless of what Kelly’s legacy becomes, he is the
head football coach at Notre Dame. The time that Petrozzello and I spent with
him was extraordinary, as is the portrait that Petrozzello captured.
that afternoon, we – along with 30,000 others – attended the Notre Dame pep
rally. We watched the festivities from behind the stage and alongside former Pennsylvania
governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who I interviewed for
Saturday, September 11 was game day. Notre Dame vs. Michigan. I watched the teams take the field from
the end zone, and I was captivated by the energy in the stadium from that point
forward. Notre Dame fell behind early, came back to take a fourth quarter lead
and gave it up in the final seconds. The final score was Michigan 28, Notre
Dame 24. It was a thrilling game.
story will be one of the more comprehensive pieces you’ll read in Yankees Magazine. It will preview the
November 20 Notre Dame vs. Army game. It will detail Notre Dame and Army’s
storied histories. It will bring you the words of the Theodore Hesburgh and
Brian Kelly. And it will showcase a unique collection of photographs.
thanks to John Mosely, who made all of the interviews and photo shoots happen.