A Mother's Words: Part II with Karen Koyack

The conclusion of our column, "A Mother's Words" with Karen Koyack, whose son Ben is set to join the 2011 Fighting Irish.

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As with all parents when their children grow up and leave the house, Karen Koyack is certain her son Ben Koyack will miss some of the things he's use to having in his life.

"I think he is going to miss his family.  His brother and sister have a great relationship with him.  I think when he is away from them he misses them.  I would also say his friends, he's made some contacts with the boys he's going to attending Notre Dame with, but I think he'll miss his family and his friends."

 "We live in a very small little town and there is not a lot of stuff to do here, so he's made some very tight bonds with a lot of his friends and his brother and sister.  Ben is the youngest with his sister is 22 and his brother is 19."

How Far Was Too Far?

One of the discussions Karen had with her son during the process of picking a college was the distance away from home that would be comfortable for both parties.

"It did not really matter to me as far as that went.  We tried to talk with Ben about staying close (within so many hours) one of his coaches really helped him and told him he would have a pick of schools within a 6-7 hour drive time.  It did not really matter to me, I told him if he wanted to go to Penn State that was fine, if he wanted to go to Ohio State that was fine."

With two BCS programs in their home state, Karen did not have a problem with Ben leaving Pennsylvania.

"I know a lot of people get wrecked up about him going outside of Pennsylvania, however, I did not feel that way and just wanted what was the best him and whatever was the best choice for him was where he needed to go."

Empty Nesting

While parents always think about their children growing up and leaving the home, Karen knows when the time comes for Ben to leave for Notre Dame, she will have some mixed emotions.

"There are a lot of things I'm going to miss about Ben when he leaves for Notre Dame.  With him being the youngest and the empty nest syndrome setting in when he does.  I would say his sense of humor and cooking.  I will not have to cook as much now.  I will not have to buy as much pasta, he eats pasta like you will not believe."

"His music,  he is heavily involved in the music program at school and he listens to a lot of music at home and an often time calls me to listen to the different music he's listening to.  It will just be very quiet without him."

"It is one of those deals parents have to deal with, but I'm not looking to forward to it.  He had originally planned on graduating early and when he changed his mind, I was grateful, as it will give me a couple of more months before I have to say goodbye to him because I know once he goes the times he'll come home are going to be few because of football."

One Meal He'll Miss

"I do not know because the food at Notre Dame is so good out there.  I use to kid him because I'd make chili or something fancy or stuff pepper s, and he doesn't want any part of that.  I told him when he goes off to college he was going to be grateful for the way I cooked for him, but then we went to Notre Dame and the food is so great out there."

He loves fettuccine alfredo, he loves any kind of pasta, baked macaroni and cheese.  They are probably going to cut him off all that stuff when he starts playing football because they think lean and mean and do not let them eat a lot of high carb stuff, so I would say any kind of pasta will be what he will ask for when he comes home."

Finding A Perfect Fit

At 6-foot-5, 235-pounds, Karen has many stories to tell about finding clothes that fit her son.  However, Ben was not the only one in the family where finding clothes to fit was an issue.

"Both of my sons are tall like their father is. Jeans are terrible because Ben needs a 36 inch inseam and you cannot find them so you have to order them.  Shoes are a 16 so I do not have good luck with shoes, so you have to order them or hit the outlets.  He needs an extra long sleeve length and everything is extra tall.  But I'm use to that because his dad was an extra tall and his brother Mike is 6-foot-4, so that is pretty standard in our family."

Childhood Memories

Looking back at her son and remembering the stories the family tells around the dinner table, Karen fondly remembers a few the Koyack family always talks about.

"Ben was very active on his bicycle and learned to ride a bike very early.  One time he had his bike helmet on, he was climbing a tree, and he got stuck because his helmet got wedged in the branches of the tree. 

So Ben is hanging from the tree by his helmet (3-4 years old) and our neighbor had to rescue him.  Another story we all talk about happened when Ben was about four years old.   Ben was pounding nails into the living room floor, into the carpet.  I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was setting a trap.  We still have no idea what he was trying to catch, but the kids use to call him Brainy Smurf because he would always have a comment to explain it that was like philosophical, so everyone would just say they got another Brainy Smurf comment there."

Practice Makes Perfect

While the two stories above always bring a laugh, Karen said the one that really stands out was when Ben learned to write his name.  From the sound of it, Ben got in plenty of practice on how to sign future autographs.

"I taught Ben how to write his name.  He was probably about three, and he wrote his name all over the house.  I had to buy him a chalkboard  because he wrote Ben all over the house.  I told him he could not do that because every where I turned all over the house I would see his name."

Grateful To All - First Impression Remembered

During the recruiting process, Karen and her family had the chance to meet coaches from across the country.  However, in the end, Notre Dame won the recruiting battle earning her son's verbal pledge.  To all the schools that recruited her son, Karen is extremely grateful.

"I have to say, I would have been ok with Ben at any of these places.  I felt the men we met were all of higher character and I respect all of these men.  But when Brian Kelly went to Notre Dame, Ben had sent his very first DVD to Coach Kelly when he was at Cincinnati and he was very interested in Ben." 

"When Coach Kelly first got to Notre Dame (we had not heard from Notre Dame), he got in contact with Ben and said he had interest in Ben because of that video we sent to Cincinnati.  So when we did meet these men, I felt very comfortable with these men." 

"We did not meet Brian Kelly right away, but we did meet Charley Molnar, and I found him to be very down to earth.  These coaches are family men.  Charley Molnar has eight children, on Ben's official visit I had a chance to meet his wife, and we talked all night long as if I had known her for years.  I just like the idea of the way that campus is run and how the coaches are extremely involved with those boys.  I'm grateful to all of the teams and the coaches who offered Ben, we feel very blessed he was chosen for this, we never dreamt he would get a scholarship offer, let alone all the ones he did."

Her Son's Commitment & Feeling Like He Belonged

As with most parents the recruiting process has its peaks and valleys.  Karen and those around him, helped Ben get to a point of understanding when to make his college decision.

"When Ben went to Notre Dame on that final visit before he committed, he said he knew when he got there he knew Notre Dame was where he fit in at.  It was very hard because we felt he had to make a decision early.  With the help of his coach, we felt he should commit in May of his junior year, so we told him we were not going to do these official visits to all these schools.  We'll take an official visit to the school you pick, and you're going to have to pick off of the visits we've done."

"I can remember asking him if he had made a decision and he would tell me he did not know what to do.  So we would sit down and look at each school until we got it down to five.  It was tedious for him to finally pick a school, but when he went to Notre Dame, he came back and said he was ready to commit.  I was so relieved, I told him I would have been fine anywhere he wanted to go, because it was his education and his life.  But I was secretly praying it was Notre Dame."

Still Little Brother

As the youngest of three children, Ben Koyack will never outgrow the shadows of his older sister and brother.  However, both siblings are extremely proud of "Little Bennie" as his sister likes to call him.

"He's little Bennie to his sister.  When we went to Notre Dame for a spring game, there were adults asking him to sign things.  Everyone is so proud of him.  My daughter has his picture hanging in her apartment.  My other son (Mike)had always been a Notre Dame fan, and has been one since he was a little kid.  He just pulled out this Notre Dame jacket that has been sitting in out  basement that someone gave us many years ago.  It was a man's jacket and never worn, so he is now wearing it.  There is a sense of pride as everyone is so proud Ben."

Note: Irish Eyes would like to thank Karen Koyack for taking the time and talking about her youngest son, Ben.  Our hope is that Irish fans now have a better understanding of the type of person they will be cheering for on the field as Ben is set to sign his letter of intent on National Signing Day in February.

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