Lou Holtz

Holtz talks candidly about life at the top of Notre Dame

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For most of the younger generation, especially those suiting up and playing football, Lou Holtz isn’t known as a football coach, but as Dr. Lou, the funny old fella on ESPN that’s got a catchy phrase for just about everything. While the ESPN Holtz has become almost a caricature of himself, and the mantel piece as one of the nation’s true cheerleaders for the Fighting Irish, he’s also one of the only people in the world that can talk to Brian Kelly about life at the top as a head coach at Notre Dame.

So while most of us are used to seeing Holtz spar playfully with Mark May or give pep talks in fictional locker rooms in Bristol, Holtz the former coach had plenty of interesting thoughts to share yesterday as he discussed Notre Dame, Brian Kelly, and the Irish’s hopes to upset Alabama.

It’s no surprise that Holtz told Kelly that life at Notre Dame is different than anywhere else either coach had been. It’s a lesson he learned from Ara Parseghian. And that change only grows when you find yourself at the top of college football.

“When I went there Ara Parseghian said this place is different than any other and you’ll have to learn how to handle all the media, all the distractions, everybody pulls you in a different direction you time’s not your own,” Holtz said yesterday. “He said after you win a national championship the coaching position will change again. He’s absolutely right. Once you win a national champions at Notre Dame, your life is never the same again after that.”

The parallels between Kelly and Holtz entering their championship season (at least Kelly’s opportunity at a championship) are downright scary. Take a look at a few of the tidbits BlueandGold.com’s Lou Somogyi points out:

* Both 51 years old.
* Both had 10 losses entering season three.
* Both bet their seasons on an unproven dual-threat QB from South Carolina.
* Both beat Michigan State in September 20-3.

Season three has been the magical season for many Notre Dame coaches. Holtz talked about that and ventured a few guesses why.

“Why the third year? Because by that time you’re comfortable with it,” Holtz said. “The players have bought in to your system. You’ve been able to recruit to your system. You’ve been able to build a camaraderie and a trust between the players and the coaches.”

That camaraderie and trust has been so evident this season, as Kelly delicately balanced a tricky quarterback situation and built a unity on this team that hasn’t been seen in a long time. And if Kelly is able to defeat Alabama, Holtz spoke candidly about the next challenge that faces Notre Dame’s head coach: Elevated expectations.

“When you win it, everybody puts you on a pedestal,” Holtz said. “Once you’re on the pedestal, no matter what you do, it ain’t good enough. We finished second in the country, everyone called me an idiot. The guy who finishes last in medical school, they call him doctor.”

Holtz also talked about the dangers of not setting your goals high enough, something you never thought possible for a motivator like Holtz.

“You get on top, you say this is pretty good, let’s not change anything.  But if you don’t change anything, you don’t have anything you’re trying to aspire to,” Holtz said. “When I left Notre Dame, I thought I was tired of coaching. I was not tired of coaching. I was tired of maintaining.

“We should have set standards that nobody thought were possible. That’s the thing I regret. Don’t maintain. We maintained it well. But that was a mistake.”

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.

 

 

Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”