Polian Thrilled With Opportunity

Irish head coach Charlie Weis was a man on a mission when he went searching for his coaching staff. Weis was able to land a great balance of both experience and recruiting ability amongst his new staff. The man with the least coaching experience is defensive backs and special teams coach Brian Polian. While Polian doesn't have years of experience as a coach at top football universities, he certainly has the pedigree to become a great coach.

Brian Polian has been around football his entire life. Growing up the son of a top NFL administrator in has its perks and its downsides, but Polian says he was bit by the coaching bug at an early age.

"I think when you grow up the way myself and my two brothers grew up, essentially immersed in the game, one of two things was going to happen," said Brian Polian. "Either you decide that this is really what you want to do or ‘I can't stand this and I don't want anything to do with it.' I thought it was exciting and I wanted to be part of it.

"All my formative years were spent in Buffalo, N.Y. when my dad was with the (Buffalo) Bills. By the time I was in sixth and seventh grade I was spending my summers in training camp.

"You don't know any different when this has been your life. I just decided early on that this is what I wanted to do."

Polian says that he wasn't the only one bit by the bug. His entire family is now in football.

"My older brother Chris is the Assistant General Manager for the (Indianapolis) Colts. My younger brother Dennis is the Director of Football Operations at Columbia. One administratively, one personnel-wise, and I'm the coach. We could put together a whole organization."

The 31-year-old Polian says his dad's position in football certainly had its pluses growing up.

"It was neat," Polian said of growing up in professional football. "The relationships were fun--literally growing up in the locker room with the same group of players. Being around guys like coach Levy, Jim Kelley, Thurman Thomas, Steve Tasker, Pete Metzelars, they're players that I still keep in touch with. I'm very lucky to have that experience and to be able to call some of those guys my friends."

The Buffalo native started his coaching career after graduating from John Carroll University in Ohio, and taking his first coaching position at Michigan State as graduate assistant. Polian then spent time at Baylor University and Buffalo before taking the running backs and recruiting coordinator job at Central Florida.

He was organizing a recruiting effort with George O'Leary at Central Florida when the Irish can Weis came calling.

"Ironically enough, my head coach at Central Florida, George O'Leary, knew about this before I did," said Polian when asked his thoughts when he heard Notre Dame and Weis were interested. "Notre Dame does everything right and they called and asked for permission to talk to me before I even knew I was involved.

"I was actually told by coach O'Leary at UCF that the Athletic Director at UCF had been contacted, and that Notre Dame had an interest in speaking to me. I then had an initial conversation with coach Weis.

The Buffalo, N.Y. native said he hated to leave UCF and O'Leary with such a short tenure, but the Irish opportunity was too good to pass up.

"The only thing that I was a little hesitant about was that I was only in Orlando for a year," Polian said. "It was never my intention to go there, stay a year, and then get out. I have a lot of respect for coach O'Leary and his staff there.

"The bottom line is this has always been a dream of mine. There have been no other jobs in America that I've had a place in my heart than this place. I would've never dreamed in 100 years that I'd end up here.

"I just never thought it was realistic I could end up here. So when the opportunity presented itself, I told my wife ‘how many chances in a lifetime do you get to coach at Notre Dame?' It was also a chance to be close to my family, and be back in the Midwest where I'm very comfortable."

Polian says his coaching role at Notre Dame hasn't been specifically defined at this stage, but that should happen soon.

"I'll be working with coach Bill Lewis in the defensive backfield, and how that's divided up, we'll work through that in the next couple of weeks," Polian said. "To be honest, I'm not real worried about it. I have an unbelievable opportunity to learn from one of the best defensive backfield coaches in all of America and that's Bill Lewis.

"In terms of the kicking game, Bernie Parmalee and myself will probably split the duties. The head coach hasn't quite outlined that yet. What I can tell you is that I will be extremely active in the kicking game because I have a passion for coaching it. I love special teams, and I'm looking forward to bringing a lot of energy and emphasis on that area of the game."

Another area where Polian will be counted on and has had an immediate impact is on the recruiting trail. In the short period we've been able to follow this staff on the recruiting trail, Polian seems to stand out when speaking with prospects.

"No prospect is going to look at me and say ‘he's got NFL experience.' They're going to look at coach (Weis), and Bill Lewis and Bernie Parmalee," said Polian when asked if he thought his NFL ties could help the Irish on the recruiting trail. "I think me being here, especially in the Midwest and maybe out East, the high school coaches, there's going to be some name recognition there. I think the guys who really follow football hardcore are going to know who my dad is, and that's great."

The nine-year coaching veteran says he hasn't been assigned a specific recruiting territory at this stage.

"Coach Weis and coach Ianello are working through that, and we have not been presented a specific plan. I have no doubt that coach Weis and coach Ianello have pretty much shaped that at this point. When we get back together as a whole staff, I'm sure all of these things will be addressed."

One area Polian will likely be assigned is Florida because of his time spent at UCF.

"I have no feel for how Florida was recruited before, and I'm not looking at what happened before," he said when asked if he thought the Irish might have more success in recruiting Florida in the future. "I think there are a lot of Notre Dame-type of kids that can play, that have the kind of character and academic profiles that we're looking for there.

"We're going to need to set our roots down hard in the Midwest. To say ‘we're going to make a living in Florida,' I'm not sure we can do that. We need to start at home first and then branch out. But certainly there are guys in the state of Florida we'll be involved with."

The nice thing about Weis' staff is that many of the coaches on the staff come from different parts of the country, and Polian believes that will help the Irish on the recruiting trail.

"I think recruiting is relationships across the board in both high schools and certainly year-to-year with the individual prospects," he said. "To me, recruiting is relationships and communication.

"There's no doubt that relationships with high school coaches is extremely important in the recruiting process. I think if you look at our staff, and all the different places that we've come from, there are going to be a lot guys who are going to have strong relationships in different parts of the country, and that's going to help us.

"To give you an example, to go in Northeast Ohio, where I went to college, and have recruited for other institutions, you know a lot of people. Now all of the sudden you have Notre Dame on the front of your chest, and you have this unbelievable product to present, certainly that's going to help us."

Speaking of the staff, Polian says he's been just as impressed with this coaching staff as the Irish fans have been since they've been announced by Weis.

"The staff is unbelievable when you look at all the resumes' and how successful they've been," he said. "But more important, when we all got together, you wouldn't imagine that this group just got together. To watch this staff interact, everyone is very comfortable with each other. You'd think we've been together for two or three years. Guys understand their roles and work very well together.

"I think coach Weis brought in a lot of similar personalities, and I think that's a credit to coach Weis and his research in selecting a staff. From my perspective as a younger coach, it's very exciting to learn from great coaches like the people here."

Polian says he's only been married to his wife Laura for a short period of time, but she's already had to endure quite a bit being a coach's wife. However, he and his wife look forward to building a life in South Bend.

"I'm only married about a year and a half so I'm considered a newlywed," Polian said. "She's an unbelievably strong woman that's had to put up with this early on in this marriage. She kind of knew because my mom sat her down before we got married and told her how it was going to be, and kind of helped her understand.

"The transition has been smooth. Part of the reason is the Notre Dame family has made it so smooth in helping us with this. My wife will be leaving around the 20th of February to move up here. We've bought a home here, and we're very excited to make our home here."

Polian is a very personable guy and we can see how he's very effective on the recruiting trail. Spending so much time around professional football had to rub off on Polian, and we bet he turns out to be a pretty good coach, too. This Irish coaching staff continues to impress Irish Eyes more and more every day.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories