"The breaking down part took place the second week I was here," Weis said. "When I got here, for the first two weeks we had winter workouts. For two weeks, we had them up at 6 o'clock on the morning and I walk around in a coat and tie with a clipboard. While all the other coaches were working their butts off on Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half, I was just taking notes because I didn't even know who they were.
"I just watched them. I wasn't happy with what I was seeing. They thought they were working hard. What I thought and what they thought were not the same. So then I went through the process from there until halfway through spring ball beating down. I just beat them down like nothing was good.
"Then finally, somewhere along the line, the switch turned on. When they turn the switch, so do you. They go hand in hand. You can never take the pressure off all together but halfway through spring ball I think the saw the light that maybe they got a chance. Right now, I think their confidence I growing."
To help change the mindset, Weis brought in a coaching staff that reflected his football philosophies. One of those was Rick Minter. The defensive coordinator held the same position here at Notre Dame in 1992-93 under Lou Holtz. The 1993 season is remembered for the heart-breaking loss to Boston College. It was also the last time the team won a bowl game (beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl). Minter wants to erase the recent past and think forward to the future.
"Ultimately, anytime you take over a job, you have to change attitudes," Minter said. "That's really what we've tried to set out to do. It is to try to change the attitude of the past because obviously it wasn't good enough. That is speaking for coach. He knows how to do things and we're jumping on his coattails. We're assertive when it's time to be assertive. We're followers when we need to be followers. These kids have done a great job responding to us."
To go about changing the mindset of the players, Weis had to know who to push and who to back off of. The head coach said at Media Day that he wanted his offensive players to play with a defensive mentality. This was bait, especially for the offensive linemen. Weis admits they took the statement personal and the line has been battling in camp the way he likes to see. However, Weis knows everyone responds differently.
"You have to learn the personality of your players," Weis said. "I don't think you can treat everyone the same. This is not a democracy. You have to find out what buttons to push and some guys when you are on them real hard play better. But there are other guys when you are on them that go into the tank.
"When I was younger, I only knew one way. That was to be on them real hard all the time. That doesn't mean that you don't push them all. You have to push everybody. Some guys, you have to realize, you can't afford to lose them by putting them in the tank because some guys take it a little bit different. But you have to coach them hard and find those buttons for each one of those individuals."
Weis has learned from the master of motivation. One of his mentors was the Big Tuna himself, Bill Parcells. The stories of how Parcells motivates his players are legendary. Luckily for Weis, he saw this first hand and is trying to do the same here at Notre Dame.
"I watched Parcells do that for years and years," Weis said. "You would think all he did was hammer people all the time, which he did a pretty good job of that anyway. I also watched how he worked the locker room and training room and the weight room and the coaches. He knew everyone's buttons. He knew what was really going to get you. But he knew when to back off. Unfortunately, he never found that back off stage with me."
The hard work began in the summer time with strength and conditioning coach Ruben Mendoza leading the workouts and continues through fall camp. It all leads directly to one point: the September 3rd opener at Pittsburgh. Weis and his staff have been working the players hard. This is the price of restoring success and the players have bought into it.
"We realized that during summer conditioning because there were many times when people would want to stop," running back Darius Walker said. "There would be people throwing up on the side. People were pushing themselves past the normal point, way beyond the original point of what they originally thought they could do. That was something we got during the summer. Now, it becomes easier to push ourselves past that point."
"I think that is something you learn for yourself because everyone has their own limit. When you reach that limit, it's easy to give up but I think what these coaches have taught us is that when you get to that limit, you got to exceed those."