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Broyles Award finds perfect fit in Bob Diaco

Dec 13, 2012, 3:20 PM EDT

Bob Diaco hat

When Frank Broyles and his selection committee set out to rightfully honor the very best in assistant coaches, they had probably never heard of Bob Diaco. At the time, Diaco was a young man just completing a college football career at Iowa, playing for the legendary Hayden Fry.

Yet even as a two-time All-Big Ten linebacker, a team captain, and a co-MVP, Diaco had the heart of a coach. He understood how special football was, from the on-field battles, the strategy, and the communal relationships. He showed up in a shirt and tie his first day as a Hawkeye. He battled through injuries and ups and downs at Iowa, but never lost the determination that still shows through today.

Diaco’s journey to the Broyles Award, given to college football’s best assistant coach, hasn’t been an easy one. At Notre Dame, many doubted Kelly’s choice for defensive coordinator, wondering if he was even the best choice for the job on Kelly’s own staff. Those doubts turned vocal after Diaco’s defense gave up 367 rushing yards to Navy in his first season, the low-water mark for the Irish defense in the Brian Kelly era.

Yet Diaco has stuck to his plan. Just as importantly, he’s continued to build Notre Dame’s defense. With boundless enthusiasm and energy, Diaco had set out unabashedly to build the best defense in America, a goal that seemed laughable at the time. But three seasons later, Diaco achieved his goal, with the Irish leading the nation in scoring defense, the ultimate measure of the unit.

A year after being a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, Diaco was selected its winner this year, just another one of the spoils that have come along with Notre Dame’s 12-0 season. And in earning the achievement, Diaco was awarded not just for his job well done on the sidelines, but for his near perfect fit at Notre Dame.

As Diaco’s name continues to circulate as colleges fill their head coaching vacancies, that factor isn’t lost on Diaco, nor his boss, Brian Kelly.

“It doesn’t surprise me if they wanted to talk to Bob Diaco. I think he’s the finest defensive coordinator in the country,” Kelly said last week.

Yet Kelly also understands Diaco’s role at Notre Dame, and the almost perfect marriage Diaco has with the school, his faith, and the players he continues to passionately recruit to South Bend. So much so, Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator and assistant head coach referenced the school’s mission statement during his acceptance speech.

“It’s very interesting that the final line of their mission statement at the university, ‘Notre Dame pursues its objectives through the formation of an authentic human community, graced by the spirit of Christ.’ And that’s what they get done,” Diaco said when he accepted the award.

“The players at Notre Dame chose Notre Dame because they expect excellence. They’re achievement oriented. And they go to class. So they go to four or five classes in the day. And those classes are pretty dynamic, you’ve probably got a pretty good picture of what a class at Notre Dame looks like. So then at the end of the day, he’s coming to my class. So you better have your bar set real high. Because I’ve got to put on the best class of the day. Because they’re looking at you and they’re expecting it.”

As Notre Dame fought the noble battle of doing things right in the classroom while trying to battle the best in college football, it was easy for skeptics to scoff at one of the game’s relics, fighting a seemingly unwinnable battle. But now that Notre Dame has all but done the impossible — leading the country in graduation rate, while also ranking atop the sport on the field — it’s forced other schools to take a hard look at how they go about their business.

But that’s all been part of Diaco’s mission. And he’s openly stated that there’s more to his job than just playing great defense and winning football games. And that’s what made him so grateful for Broyles Award.

“Just trying to serve,” Diaco said, telling the assembled group about one of his life tenants. “I’m just trying to be the best servant that I can possibly be. And that’s why this award is so special to me, personally. It’s acknowledging the fact of a job well done to being a servant.”

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Special thanks to the Broyles Award and Jason Brown for making Diaco’s acceptance speech available.

  1. frankshiel - Dec 13, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Congrats Bob. Job well done.

  2. bernhtp - Dec 13, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    What a great speech by a great man. He is truly loved by all there, and for very good reason.

  3. ibleedirish - Dec 13, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    So, great speech, great man and we are undoubtedly fortunate to have him at Notre Dame. What he’s done so far with the defense is nothing short of amazing.

    That said, did anyone else get the feeling that those in the audience were thinking something like “Uhhh, yeeaahhh. Ok Bob. Little strange there Bob. Hehe, please just back away from the podium slooowwly, and no one will get hurt.”

    He just kind of seems like one of those guys that goes over very well with teens and twenty-somethings, within the confines of a football team where that kind of intensity is expected. Outside of a locker room or practice field though….I get the heebie jeebies if I look into his eyes for too long.

    • bernhtp - Dec 13, 2012 at 5:22 PM

      Bob is a believer, in all senses of the word. Journalists are skeptics and thus the great divide between them.

      • ibleedirish - Dec 13, 2012 at 5:38 PM

        Tell the truth, did you give yourself a thumbs up?

      • bernhtp - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:58 PM

        Not yet, but I will now.

    • davidcarljohn - Dec 13, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      No doubt his passion can come across a little weird. I’ll take him however. He’s such a good leader, great coach. I think his perceived weirdness will keep him from getting a coveted head coaching job, to be honest. That’s good news for ND. The longer he sticks around the better. This will sound silly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kelly is fully aware of this, and maybe even planned on it when hiring him. Great coordinators leaving a program can really hurt, look at Texas. We have a smart, passionate coach who may never leave because no one would want him to be the head coach. I can’t imagine Diaco dealing with the press as much as a head coach is required, schmoozing alum etc…

      This may be a perfect situation for ND!

    • yogihilt - Dec 13, 2012 at 6:50 PM

      Bleed, You should’ve stopped at the word amazing. He was hired to be the DC at Notre Dame, and to coach and speak to players which, in your words, has to ‘go over very well with teens and twenty-somethings, within the confines of a football team”.
      And that’s what he does, and does it very well, obviously. He was not hired as a public speaker ‘outside the confines’, to please all. And I doubt you’ll ever get the chance to get the heebie jeebies from him.

      • ibleedirish - Dec 14, 2012 at 8:54 AM

        Oh snap! You got me good, and with my own words too. That smarts.

        Get a sense of humor dude. As I said, we are very fortunate to have him. All I’m saying is that his personality may allow us to keep him longer that we may have otherwise.

    • mimefrog - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:13 PM

      I’m glad he isn’t yet another robot-coach. The guy is very spiritual and I don’t think its any coincidence that he turned this defense around with a spiritual message. KA is right that he is a great fit for ND. It also says a lot about Kelly; Kelly has let the dude be himself.

  4. mtflsmitty - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    I have to say I don’t sense any oddness from Diaco. Not at all. I’m not sure how you guys are concocting a weird vibe from passion for what he does, and a belief in the fundamental mission of the university. I’m not trying to be disagreeable, but I can only assume your assessment of Diaco as an oddball is more about your own cynicism than him being odd.

    • davidcarljohn - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:53 PM

      I’m not a cynic, I’m a huge ND fan and LOVE Diaco. He’s just a little weird. It’s been commented on by his own players. But they love him, that’s all that matters. I just think it hurts his prospects for a head coaching job, which is good for us.t

      • ibleedirish - Dec 14, 2012 at 8:57 AM

        Exactly my point. Well said. I never said his weirdness was a bad thing. Damn, people are uptight AF.

      • 1historian - Dec 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM

        “He’s just a little weird.”

        Could you (or somebody) PLEASE be a bit more specific?

    • 1historian - Dec 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      ditto

      • ibleedirish - Dec 14, 2012 at 11:09 AM

        If you don’t see it, you don’t see it. It not a big deal. My god people, simmer down now.

  5. 9irish - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    “Outside the confines” may be a way to put it, he might have to learn to schmooz a little bit before moving up to head coach. But I have been in the military for a long time, and I’ve heard speeches from men like him before…makes you willing to charge hell with a water pistol.

    Go Irish

  6. mannydomer61 - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Really don’t know what you guys are talking about. It is obvious coach Diaco is intense and has strong faith. The world needs a lot more of coach Diaco and a lot less of the Bobby petrinos. HERE COME THE IRISH!

  7. seamus0317 - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    Whatever they need to pay him in order to keep him as DC…PAY IT!!!!!!!!

  8. irishdodger - Dec 13, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Les Miles is considered weird & his players love him. In addition to being in talent rich Louisiana & in the south, he’s able to pull in huge recruiting hauls every year. This ensures they compete for championships despite his questionable coaching decisions. Maybe Diaco is similar to Lesticles?

    • djlovesnotredame - Dec 13, 2012 at 10:12 PM

      Great point. I can’t disagree with you there. Maybe weird is the wrong term for Diaco… We can say eccentric, unique. Either way, great coach.

      • 9irish - Dec 13, 2012 at 10:48 PM

        Nah, I don’t think anyone is saying that, really. He’s just used to being in there, face to face. Kelly is the same way, I’ve seen footage of him, too, looks like they are all about to go into combat or something. But he can flip the switch and act like the Mayor. I think that’s what everyone is saying. I love Diaco..he is a huge part of this success.

        Go Irish

      • ibleedirish - Dec 14, 2012 at 9:01 AM

        PERFECT 9irish. Weird, unique, eccentric all equal great coach. Maybe not head coach yet. Because to be CEO of a program you need to have that switch to flip. People need to calm the hell down. You’d think half the people on here were Diaco’s wife.

    • bernhtp - Dec 14, 2012 at 10:26 AM

      Les Miles is weird. I would be very uncomfortable with him speaking for Notre Dame. He is often crude, flippant, insulting, caustic, and just plain strange. His shtick apparently works well with his team, but is a big mismatch for ND.

      Bob Diaco is certainly intense, but a great representative for ND. He speaks in deep profundities, which is very unusual. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what he is trying to say, but it rarely matters. Again, he is a true believer. My sense is that his big belief in things greater – God, family, Notre Dame, team – and his influence is a big factor in the special spirit that has led to this season’s success.

      I hope we have him for at least another year, and I would always welcome him back.

      • djlovesnotredame - Dec 14, 2012 at 10:55 AM

        Agree completely.

    • danirish - Dec 14, 2012 at 6:28 PM

      Les Miles is scum – he recruits well b/c his pool of recruits don’t really have any standards that stop him (honeybadger don’t care right?)

      My dream would be that Notre Dame wins the BCS and then Notre Dame plays LSU for the title with Gunner Kiel at the helm and whips LSU’s butt

      Then we will see who has the bigger chest eh Les?

  9. dermmite - Dec 14, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Nudeman, why are you being such a bitch towards the recruiting process of Redfield. I thought a little “shit talking” would be in order. After all he did commit to ND. Whatever Redfield, come to ND or not. We’ve already proven all it takes is great coaching to make 3 star players ( by some bullshilt organization) into 5 star players. Great coaching always prevails over star ratings. Go ND and Fuck all you haters. By the way way I got a potty mouth and if your kid reads it, fuck it, it won’t be the worst thing he’s read in his life.

  10. yaketyyacc - Dec 14, 2012 at 4:10 AM

    a successful undefeated season results from a combination of several factors converging at a central point. Notre Dame has achieved this. One, one of the factors is defense. Diaco, give Notre Dame a defense that will give Notre Dame an undefeated season. HE DID HIS JOB! for which I thank him.

  11. bionicpeter - Dec 14, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    Passion and dedication truly comes from the heart. You cant articulate those feelings into things that most people can
    truly understand. We should all be great cup this type of person is in our house.

  12. 1historian - Dec 14, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    I like this guy. Weird? I don’t get it.

    Passionate, dedicated, intense, in your face?

    Yes.

    Anything wrong with that?

    Guys that he recruits know that’s what they’ll get when they commit to ND – they EXPECT it. There is something about a 12-0 record that gets your attention.

    Anything wrong with that?

    From the way he talks I get the vibe that he eventually wants to be the HC at Notre Dame.

    Anything wrong with that?

  13. 1historian - Dec 14, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    On an unrelated subject

    Last year after the home loss to USC (Barkley said later that at the end of the game the ND players kind of quit) and not long after that Coach Kelly was quoted as saying that he was not too thrilled with some of the players he had inherited from Charlie Weis.

    The excrement hit the air circulator immediately. Weis recruits were furious, which they should be, and a mini furor immediately arose. Kelly apologized, there was a team meeting, hurt feelings were soothed, etc. and they all lived happily ever after.

    But – being the cynical old fart that I am, I thought then and I still do think that Coach Kelly did that ON PURPOSE.

    Lots of people inside and outside of the current team have commented on that aspect of this TEAM – how devoted they are to each other. I believe that what Coach Kelly said last year has something to do with that.

    Before I am hit with a barrage of thumbs down please keep in mind that we are talking about young men between 18 and 22 years old.

    Thoughts?

    • bernhtp - Dec 14, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      While Kelly erred in saying what he did and how he did, it was not without significant provocation. The whole story behind this is not public. With that said, all have obviously kissed and made up. All is good regardless of who recruited them. There is one team.

      • 1historian - Dec 15, 2012 at 9:21 AM

        thanks for the reply but I disagree, and it boils down to this question – if Kelly felt the way he did wouldn’t the fact that he made his misgivings PUBLIC indicate that he had a further purpose in mind? He knew that if he said something like that it would be immediate headline news, so doesn’t it follow that he did it for a specific reason?

      • bernhtp - Dec 15, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        I think that the public expression was inadvertent and out of frustration, and he regrets it. He has since worked it out internally as he wishes would have happened from the beginning.

  14. blackirish23 - Dec 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Love the speech, love the passion. If I had to nitpick, I wish he would use a lot more WE, US, OUR, as opposed to THEIR, THEY, THEM. It almost makes him look like an outsider admiring Notre Dame when infact he HAS BECOME the definition of ND with regard to great coaching accumen.

    But with his current record, he’s free to use whatever drives him to succeed!!

    Go Irish!!

  15. ajw21 - Dec 14, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    He uses their, they, them, etc to give credit to his players & not himself.

  16. letafan4ever - Dec 14, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    Great Speech!! Very heartfelt and sincere. Admire Coach Diaco for not only his Coaching ability but his humility and spirit. I think one of his beliefs is team spirit, unity and privacy. I hope he stays.
    We could use more men like him in this world.

  17. mdirish - Dec 14, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    I there is a single person on this blog that can’t see that this guy is 100% AWESOME you don’t know success period end of story. If you can’t see it you’ve had the misfortune of not being able to be near and around successful people. I keep hearing how he maybe too passionate. What?? If you think that then you’ve never played a competitive sport.

    • ibleedirish - Dec 15, 2012 at 8:12 AM

      Oooooooooh!! Tell us about all of your successes in competive sports, please! Did you hit any game winning three’s? Any game saving tackles? How about that walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth? I’m getting all passionate just thinking about it.

  18. 1historian - Dec 15, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    file this one under: whodathunkit

    Notre Dame will be playing Alabama in a little over 3 weeks for the National Championship.

    It’s fun to think about, it’s fun to say over and over – as many times as you wish, just – whodathunkit?

  19. burgandy2260 - Dec 15, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    It’s such a breath of fresh air to see ND back in prominence. This man is getting as much acknowledgement as Kelly is right now and when…not if…but when ND wins the BCS championship in a few weeks that’s when Bob can expect a visit or call from Barry Alvarez.

    • papadec - Dec 15, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      burgandy – if he hasn’t already. Unfortunately for ND, Barry as AD, would be a great mentor for Bob as HC.

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