"If you would go to Lake Michigan and the beach, those other guys went onto the beach and walked into the water," Vaas said. "They took me to the bridge and dropped me off. The good thing was that when I jumped off that bridge, everyone waiting to catch me. They have welcomed me with opens arms and helped a ton."
This warm reception has helped ease the transition. Vaas spent the last eight years in NFL Europe, including six as head coach with the Berlin Thunder and the Cologne Centurions. He does have Notre Dame ties. Vaas was the assistant football coach in 1990-91 under Lou Holtz. The return trip back to South Bend has been a memorable one.
"It's absolutely fantastic to be back and the routine is fabulous, too," Vaas said. "You've got to understand for that the last eight years, I've been involved in some interesting style of football. This is normal. It is absolutely fantastic to be back. The routine is a grind. There is no doubt about that. There's an awful lot of work.
"But heck, if you didn't wake up in the morning with a smile on your face or go home with a smile on your face, that's because you love what you doing. I've been in this business a long time. There is a lot of ups and downs. So far, the last couple of weeks have been totally up."
Vaas is in charge of easing the quarterbacks along into a Weis's offensive system. More importantly, he will be instrumental in the development of starter Brady Quinn. The junior signal caller last year was inconsistent at times with this accuracy and threw 10 interceptions. If Quinn struggles, more than likely the Irish offense will struggle. If he shines, this offense could take off. Vaas has been impressed with the his ability to retain the playbook.
"One of the most impressive things about Brady Quinn is his mental capability," Vaas said. "Brady knows the offense inside and out. I have to stop and scratch my head and say ‘Son of a gun, he's only been here for spring practice and 10 days (of fall camp).'"
Quinn said earlier this week that Vaas gives another perspective from which he can learn.
"Coach Vaas just a big teacher," Quinn said. "He's out there always coaching us up on fundamental things. Also, coaches are going to have different interpretations of things out there about what they're seeing. Coach Weis is going to give his. Coach Vaas is going to give his. When you're coming the sidelines, he's always kind of just there to get things going and tell about the little things. You can't lose track of the fundamental things."
The first game is two weeks away for Irish. A national audience will be tuning in to see if Weis and Vaas can significantly improve the team's offensive production. Vaas is just happy to be back coaching football at Notre Dame.
"You are here in the formulation stage of a program here," Vaas said. "Obviously, I'm the last guy on the ship. I'm a little bit later than some of the others. I've been running a spring trying to catch up with a lot of things. It's extremely impressive to be around Charlie Weis. He's a great teacher and unbelievably organized."