Next up on your St. Patrick’s Day retrospective is a look back at the epic 1993 battle against Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles. And who better to look back than a man who’s spent a lifetime following the Fighting Irish.
Ryan Leahy was an offensive lineman on the ’93 squad and a two-time captain of the Irish in 1994 and 1995. He also comes from a family steeped in Irish tradition, as a third generation football player, each playing in their own version of the “Game of the Century.”
His grandfather, the legendary Frank Leahy played and coached for Notre Dame, guiding the Irish in the 1946 Army vs. Notre Dame game that was billed the Game of the Century. Leahy won four national championships, compiled a ridiculous 107-13-9 record as a head coach, a winning percentage that’s the second best in the history of college football, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970. His father James graduated from Notre Dame in 1969, and was a member of the 1966 National Championship team, taking part in another Game of the Century, the 10-10 tie against Michigan State. In his first game back from injury, Ryan had the opportunity to take part in the 1993 game, filling out a unique family trilogy that’s got to be unparalleled in all of sports.
Here are some of Ryan’s memories of that fateful Saturday in early November 1993, when the No. 2 Irish beat the No. 1 Seminoles 31-24.
“It was mayhem. There were RVs showing up on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week and just parking. You could feel the excitement start happening. As players you were more worried about keeping the task at hand, getting your school work done and that’s never going to let off. There were kids printing t-shirts, handing out hats. For me, the game was a big deal as I was coming off a knee injury and that was my first game back…
“The entire team had a sense of winning. We can beat anybody. We’re going to beat up anybody that we’re going to line up against. Holtz, in terms of preparation was the best big game coach I’ve ever seen. But he stays on top of the same things. We’re not going to change things depending on who we play. He went over the game plan. He’s got an outlined board and that’s the exact same thing we did for every game. By the time we got up to that game we didn’t change…
“Tickets were in very short supply. My dad and my grandfather came back. My brother who played baseball and wasn’t able to sign up for student tickets couldn’t get a seat. I only got two tickets, but I knew one of the ushers. So I talked to him. He knew my brother, knew we were honest and above board. So he let my brother sit down on the field..
“We were really close and the best part is that after the game, in all the mayhem he saw me and a couple of my teammates that were all his friends. He came up to the locker room with us and he sang the fight song. Winning a big game like that there’s nothing better than screaming the fight son at the top of your lungs. Father Reilly looked at me and said, ‘What’s he doing here?’ I just told him, ‘That’s okay father, he knows the fight song.'”
Special thanks to Ryan for relaying such a great story, all from right next to the trading desk at William Blair in Chicago, where he now works in fixed income and municipal bonds.