Growing up in a small Iowan town, it would have been easy for Nudlingen to become a Husker fan. After all, the only three channels that his television would pick up all came from Omaha. However, there was only one team for Nudlingen. He had to wait an extra day, but Sunday mornings were always reserved for the Irish.
As the son of an Irish Catholic father and a converted Catholic mother, religion has always been a big part of Nudlingen's life.
"I grew up as an Irish Catholic, not just Catholic, but Irish Catholic," he said. "What was the difference? I honestly don't have a clue, but that is what my dad told me, so by God it was true. Even when I was in the Army, my dog tags stated Irish Catholic, much to the chagrin of Army personnel clerks who swore there was no such thing!"
Notre Dame has always been a part of Nudlingen's family, for as long as he can remember. His grandfather came to the United States from Ireland and worked his way up to an engineer on the railroad lines. He would tell young Nudlingen stories of the great Rockne and Leahy. While he never stepped foot on Notre Dame's campus, he was as passionate about the school as any man could be. He passed that on to his son, who then passed it on to his sons.
"Dad always had a dream that one day one of his sons would play for the Irish," he said. "Growing up in Southwest Iowa, I lived for Sunday mornings when all of the family would sit and watch the Notre Dame highlights. I will never forget watching the 1970 Orange Bowl and seeing the hated Huskers totally dismantle the Irish. My dad's dream that one of his sons would play for the Irish was never fulfilled, and he passed away in 1990. He was buried in his favorite Notre Dame shirt with a pin that said world's greatest Irish fan, pinned to his chest.
"My mother, at first, didn't care too much for football, but as her boys grew, she decided if you can't beat them join them! Mom had a teaching background so she often brought up the fact that Notre Dame was much more than just football. At first this went in one ear and out the other, but as only a teacher could, she persisted and her message stuck. Often using our exuberance for all things ND, she would tie in lessons about academic excellence and doing things the right way. Quite honestly, she is the biggest Notre Dame fan I know. She can't tell the difference between a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, but her enthusiasm and more importantly the understanding of Notre Dame, permeates our family."
In addition to following football, Notre Dame became a symbol of religion for Nudlingen.
"The symbolism of Touchdown Jesus touches on this aspect," he said. "It is something that is broadcasted to the nation every Saturday, as a stark reminder of ones heritage and religious roots."
When asked what being a subway alum meant to him, he quoted Neddy66, another member of IrishEyes. Neddy66 said,
"It seemed to say that I am granted something special from my association with Notre Dame. Not a degree, but inspiration; inspiration to put her values out into the world and live them with pride. In a way, it's like running out of the tunnel in a gold helmet to play like a champion today. Not a bad philosophy for life."
For Nudlingen, the inspiration of Notre Dame is a big influence on his life and parenting. Last fall, Nudlingen and his ten-year-old daughter watched the piece on Montana Mazurkiewicz. When the weeping subsided, it offered a great chance to have a sincere talk about values with his children. They talked openly about commitment and integrity.
Later in the season, Nudlingen was inspired by Weis and his respect for the Naval Academy.
"When Coach Weis told the sideline reporter that the entire team would go honor Navy, I can't accurately express my pride," he said. "This is when I took the time to talk to my eight-year-old son about honor, courage, and commitment; and the fact that you don't have to be a veteran to exhibit such traits. Nowhere else, no other institution, inspires her graduates and her fans to exhibit such values."
Notre Dame has also been a great communication tool in the military for Nudlingen. The military likes to line soldiers up by last name. This means that all of the Mc's and Mac's are grouped together. Not surprisingly, many of them are big Notre Dame fans. Notre Dame became a source of some great conversations and friendships for Nudlingen.
While Nudlingen saw his first Notre Dame game at Air Force in 1981, it was not until 1999 that he made his first trip to Notre Dame stadium. At the time he was stationed in Fort Knox, which enabled him to make several trips to campus that year. He shares with us the experience of his first trip to Notre Dame.
"On my first trip to Notre Dame, I actually received a call from one of my young, non-commissioned officers, who asked me if I would like to go to a Notre Dame game the next morning. It seems that he had a cousin who had walked onto the Arizona State team and had just learned that he could pick up tickets the next day at Notre Dame. Well you can imagine my reply," he explained.
"I had never been to the campus but my long association as a fan made me the "expert" in the group that departed the next day for South Bend. Here I was a US Army 1st Sergeant, and I could not sleep the entire night. I was two years old and Christmas was tomorrow!
"We got to ND early, and after orienting myself, I promptly led the group on a tour of the campus I had never seen! I led the group through a memory of wishful thinking to the grotto and various other places on campus. It was as I imagined. Perfect
"I wanted to see everything, but more importantly I did not want to miss one second of the atmosphere in the stadium. As I walked out into our upper level seats, I saw the field. I stopped. Suddenly, spontaneously, chills ran up my spine and down my arms. The young Sergeant asked me if I was going to cry, I turned around with a tear streaking down my cheek. ‘Why not,' was my reply.
You can't get the entire picture from a TV screen. I thought of my grandfather and dad as the Irish Guard raised the American flag. I watched each warm up exercise…..Jarious Jackson and the other quarterbacks throwing from their knees. It was truly a memorable experience."
Notre Dame won big, 48-17.
As memorable as that first trip was, the most cherished Notre Dame memories, are associated with Nudlingen's mother. In Lou Holtz's final year, he was hospitalized for at least one game. After writing a get well letter to Holtz, Nudlingen's mother received a handwritten, two-page thank you note from the coach. "It was unbelievable that a man with so many demands, could take the time to compose something so elegant, for someone he had never met," he recalled.
In 1999, Nudlingen felt it was time to make his mother's two lifelong dreams come true.
"She wanted to pray in a church in Ireland. She was 64 at the time, and had given up on this dream. When she came to my retirement party, I presented her with an itinerary of her future trip to Ireland. She spent 14 days touring the Emerald Isle, and prayed in a church in Dublin. Her other dream was to attend a game at Notre Dame Stadium.
"Signifying the importance of Notre Dame to our family, she just wanted to see a game there. After retirement and my subsequent move back to Colorado, I messed around with various endeavors trying to figure out what I was going to do as a civilian. I took a job as a contractor for a local cable company doing a digital conversion. Anyway one Sunday morning I arrived at an appointment. A distinguished elderly gentleman answered the door and let me in.
"After asking what he wanted as far as programming, I came to the conclusion that quite frankly he did not need the extra cost associated with the upgrade. He thanked me for my honesty. As I was leaving I noticed he was wearing ND sweats. Of course a lengthy discussion ensued about the current state of the program ending with my proclamation that somehow I was going to take my mother to a game this year. ‘How many tickets would you need,' was his reply. Somewhat puzzled I answered two, for mom and me. ‘Well, I can't get you two, but I can get you four!' It ended up that he was a graduate of ND (and at least it seemed) an influential alumni at that.
"We went to the Pittsburgh game. I swear it rained the entire game but mom had the time of her life and the Irish won! We visited the grotto where mom shed a tear and a prayer. We went to the pep rally. I can still hear mom's screams! Hopefully in the not so distant future we can make this trek together again."
For Nudlingen, Notre Dame has meant so much to him in his life. As it has been said so many times, it is not just about football for him. It is about family. It is about religion. It is about inspiration. Notre Dame is not just a football team, although a little gridiron glory is always nice. Notre Dame is a way of life.
Andfan1Andfan1, whose real name is Paul, is a 51-year-old subway alum from thirty-five miles southwest of Chicago. Notre Dame has always been a part of his life, as long as he can remember.
"My dad grew up listening to Notre Dame football on the radio in the late 30s," he said. "He and his brothers started going to Notre Dame games in the early 50s. The first game they saw was the 14-14 tie with Iowa in 1953. My parents were married in October of 1953, and I have been told that the first thing my dad said after he and mom left the church, was to my uncle. He asked him to turn on the radio and see what Notre Dame was doing. They were playing Pittsburgh that day."
Paul takes a great deal of pride in being a subway alumnus.
"Being a subway alum means a lot to me. It makes me feel part of something special," he explained. "All schools have fans that may not have attended their school, but not like the fans non-alumni fans of Notre Dame. I love everything that Notre Dame stands for. It may be a cliché, but there is something magical about Notre Dame. Every time I step on campus, it gives me chills. Seeing the Dome, Sacred Heart Basilica, and the Grotto makes me feel something special inside that I cannot explain. There is such a spiritual feeling to it."
Paul has visited Notre Dame since he was too young to remember. His parents told him that once they tried to get him to pose with Paul Hornung for a picture, but young Paul would not cooperate. He wishes he had, "What a treasure that picture would be today," he said.
While Notre Dame has been in Paul's family since at least the 1930s, it is equally impressive that his family has committed to attending at least one game a year since the 1950s. They have seen their share of exciting games. For Paul, the first big game he saw was 1976 against Alabama. Notre Dame won 21-18. When Paul took his wife to her first game, they saw a thrilling two-point conversion that lifted Notre Dame to an 18-17 victory over South Carolina. If you thought that could not be topped, Paul also attended the Snow Bowl against Penn State. "I went up there without a ticket, as we do for most games, and was able to get one," he recalled. "It was a remarkable game."
One of Paul's most memorable games was the 2003 contest against BYU. It was the first time he had taken his grandson to a game. "To see the game through the eyes of a grandchild is a great memory," he said.
In 2004, Paul brought three more grandchildren to the season finale against Pittsburgh. "It warmed my heart to watch and listen to them cheer with everything they had for Notre Dame to win," he said. "I told my wife, when I called her on our way home, that if it weren't for the kids in the car, I most likely would have driven it off an overpass after the disgusting way the Irish lost that game."
When Paul thinks about all of the great players and coaches that he has seen, he singles out a pair from the 70s as his all-time favorites.
"Tom Clements is my favorite player," he said. "There was just something about the way that Tom played the game that made him my favorite. Even though there have been many, many great players since then, Tom remains my favorite."
Ara Parseghian is Paul's favorite coach. "He is the first coach that I can remember," he added. "Watching Ara on the sidelines, the intensity he showed has remained with me to this day."
While attending Notre Dame was never in the cards for Paul, he too, feels a great sense of pride in being a subway alum.
"To me, the Notre Dame family is a very special bond that people share, especially for the subway alums," he explained. "People from all walks of life, all ages, races, backgrounds get together and pull for their beloved Irish. You see many different people, all dressed differently, from all parts of the country sharing their love of the Irish. For four hours we all are one, we are all Irish at that point."
Paul cannot imagine cheering for any other school. Living in Illinois, Paul says that Northwestern and Illinois are nearby, but he has never even considered being a fan. For Paul, it is all about Notre Dame.
LostDutchmanLostDutchman, whose real name is Peter, is a native of South Bend. His father was employed by the university from the 1920s through the 1970s, and thus his affiliation to Notre Dame was natural. "I was in ND duds almost from birth, and was brought up believing there was only one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic football team: The Fighting Irish," Peter said.
Living in South Bend, Peter felt, firsthand, the effects of Notre Dame on the community. While he has no angst toward Notre Dame alumni, he does wish that the subway alumni would get a little more respect.
"Subway alumni are sort of like the merchant marines in World War II," he said. "Without us, Notre Dame would lose one of its greatest legends and greatest assets. Without subway alumni, who would have filled the Polo Grounds or Soldier Field to root the Irish on, back in the days where there was but a handful of alum? But we are, for the most part, ignored. We sail the dark seas unnoticed by our alum allies. We live and die with the Irish, but we get no glory. But that is what we have chosen. I don't begrudge one alumnus his spot in line. I just wish they would remember, that is, those cold, dark days, when things were in doubt about the future of that little cow college's football team in Indiana, that it was the subway alumni who rallied to the green."
While most memorable moments for subway alumni are football related, Peter's most memorable moments are with his family.
"I recall being a very young child and attending Christmas mass at Sacred Heart," he said. "Back in the 50s there was a painted display—Bethlehem, the star, etc…, that my dad painted for use during the holiday season. The very large display sat prominently at the altar. He did a lot of things around campus like that: The ND welcome sign on US-31, the yard line markers, the seat numbers in the stadium, the paper sign the team would break through to enter the field, gold leafing the Dome, paintings for staff and priests, and the faux marble fireplace at the Morris Inn. He would point those things out as we drove or walked around campus. Of course, not all were visible, as I only got to see about three of the paintings."
As a child, Peter's father was able to get a few extra benefits from working at the university. Peter would play sandlot football with used Notre Dame footballs during the Leahy and Brennan years. The coaches would occasionally give some to his father, who would bring them home to Peter. Peter's father was very close to the university, and when he was nearing the end of his time on earth, Father Joyce was a regular visitor at their home. According to Peter, he was even given permission to celebrate mass at the home on occasion.
Peter attended St. Joe's High School, right across the street from Notre Dame. Not knowing what he wanted to do, and trying to get as far away from a classroom as possible, he enlisted in the Air Force. Six years later, he came back to South Bend, a veteran of Vietnam, but still no outlook on his future plans.
"A fellow vet suggested college, and I decided to give it a chance, if for no other reason than to cash in on my veteran's benefits," he said. "I didn't have the money and my grades were not all that great, so even if I could throw a football, I wasn't going to Notre Dame. However, out of mere curiosity, I talked to Fr. Joyce, but was told since Dad retired, there were no employee assistance programs available. It may have been a polite way of saying you can't cut it, but I kind of knew that anyway, despite my alumnus brother saying that I could.
"I enrolled at IUSB instead, and graduated as the top English major, four years later. I was also selected as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alum of the Year in 2003. It was not the road that I had dreamed of taking when I was a kid, but it worked out well. While I do cheer on IU, they can't supplant the Irish in my heart."
When Peter was asked about his most memorable football memory, it too came off of the field. It was the day that Ara Parseghian was hired as the head football coach of Notre Dame.
"I was in the lower level of the Morris Inn with my dad, where he was working at the time," he recalled of Ara's hiring. "Word flashed that it looked like Ara was going to take the job. On a very small green board, hanging in the basement, I quickly scribbled "The Era of Ara has begun." I may have been the first to use that term, but the thrill that swept the staff downstairs went beyond anything I had felt related to the Irish beforehand. Something deep inside told me that by breaking the years of tradition of hiring only Notre Dame alums, that the Irish were returning to glory."
For this reason, among others, Ara is Peter's favorite Notre Dame coach. He helped restore the winning tradition to Notre Dame, as Peter hopes Charlie Weis will do as well. As for his favorite player...none other than Joe Montana.
"His heroics on the field were something special, and they seemed to happen a lot when I was with a fan of another school, or more likely, someone who hated Notre Dame," he said. "We were putting up plaster board in a friend's garage, and Notre Dame was losing to North Carolina. Our friend was giving us a hard time when Joe brought in the W. I especially recall the brutal Cotton Bowl against Houston and the chicken soup story, the catch in the end zone, and the comments from the Houston players afterward, when they admitted to being nervous when Montana came back. That game ranks near the top because of that last eight minutes or so, and the comments made by players on both sides."
Recently, Peter's family dealt with the tragic loss of a family member. It was at that trying time that he fully understood the meaning of the Notre Dame family.
"My brother-in-law collapsed and died a few days later," he explained. "I posted a prayer request on one or two sites, and within minutes people were offering prayers, support, lighting candles at the Grotto and so on. No one asked if I was a real alum, or just a subway one."
So where did LostDutchman get his handle? He tells a few stories of the man it honors:
"Back in the 20s Notre Dame used to go to Europe to hire young European males to come to South Bend and work in the shops. ND wanted to be self-sufficient, and wanted the European quality applied to the campus. I guess it was "the thing to do." My dad was one of those chosen. He was to be in charge of the paint shop. They first put him to work washing dishes, but he quickly learned enough English to say, ‘I am the painter.' He said he was supposed to paint Knute Rockne's office, but when he showed up, the coach was at his desk. Dad said he would come back later. Rock said, ‘Can you work in here while I'm working in here?' Dad said sure. So he and Rock moved stuff to one side of the office. Dad painted. When he finished the first half, the coach help Dad move the stuff to the painted side and both men went back to work. He remembered Rock's funeral, and we often heard stories of him watching the crowds from some rooftop.
"Dad also told me the story of one of the priests at Notre Dame, Fr. Lange. He was a wrestler or a world level boxer at one time I believe, and known as the ‘strongman-priest.' He was always lifting weights and such. According to Dad, if you showed the proper respect, he would let you come in and have a beer from his refrigerator. If you assumed it was your right to take one, and moved towards the refrigerator without asking, he would throw you out. Well, one day a priest—the vice president of the university—parked his car alongside of the building that Fr. Lange "ruled." Fr. Lange said, ‘Hey, move that car!' The priest turned and asked if he knew who he was. Fr. Lange said, ‘no, but if you know who I am, you'll move that car.' He moved the car. Fifty years later, Dad would still laugh when he told that tale.
"The last game that Dad was alive for was against Alabama. His heart was weak, his body stiff. My mother was deceased and my family was out east. Dad and I sat to watch the Irish-Tide battle it out and a battle it was. Soon my dad was gasping and said he couldn't take it, so he went to his bedroom, but he left the door open. ‘How we doin'?' he would call, and I would tell him. Bad news brought a groan, while good news brought a cheer of support…..‘Atta boy' or something akin to that. As the last minute started to tick away, Dad shuffled back into the living room and said, ‘Give me a cigarette.' I reminded him that the doctor said he shouldn't smoke, and he said, ‘It doesn't matter. I don't have that long to go anyway and damn it, the Irish just won!' It was our last game together. He died in March of 1975. His (and Mom's) cemetery plot was chosen due to its proximity to Rockne's."
So where did Dutch come from?
"There was a time when I could go into any building on campus, from the President's office to the kitchens and yell out, ‘have you seen Dutch?' They would all know who I was talking about," he said. "Not every soul on campus knew him, but a large number did, and it was guaranteed that at least one person in every building knew him. If I said that I was Dutch's son, I'd hear tales and they would bring Coke and snacks.
When I attended St. Joe, there were days when he would pick me up and drive me back to the Morris Inn. They would give me a room and a tray with chocolate milk and pastry from the kitchen. I'd do my homework until it was time for him to leave. When I worked there for a year between high school and the Air Force, it took an hour to get through human resources and another hour in their administration office, because the two guys kept talking about their days with my dad. It was pretty impressive since he was not a man of authority, other than his crew.
"He sat quietly. They gave him mementos, souvenirs of a life's work and then as a final farewell gift, they informed him he was to receive an all expenses paid trip to Holland for my mom and dad. It would be his first trip back to his homeland since he arrived at Notre Dame. The host then asked if Dad had anything to say. He stood for a moment at the microphone and said: ‘I have listened to all these kind words and if they are all true, I've been underpaid for twenty years.' Everyone laughed. Dad said. ‘I'm not kidding.' Then he smiled and took his seat. Later he told me, ‘Petey, I was always loyal to Notre Dame and they were always loyal to me. Never forget that.'
"To honor his memory, I chose LostDutchman, as my handle."
Reflecting on the six subway alumni that have been featured in this piece, and the thousands of subway alumni that are constantly posting on message boards, it is amazing to witness the diversity of people that all share the same thing in common: Notre Dame.
As Peter addressed, subway alumni make up the vast majority of Notre Dame fans. Without the subway alumni, Notre Dame football could not have survived the early years, and would not have flourished into the legendary football program that it is today. As years have passed, Notre Dame has relied heavily on support and contributions from alumni, but also subway alumni. With the small size of Notre Dame in student population, the university must receive aid from outside the alumni pool. Through support, financial donations, and merchandizing, the subway alumni elevate Notre Dame to a level that is not attained by many other universities.
It is the subway alumni that separate Notre Dame from other universities. The Notre Dame family is not exclusive to those holding a degree, or those who teach at Our Lady's University. One does not have to be a Notre Dame priest or nun. The Notre Dame family is comprised of people from all over the world, in every line of work, and every economic background. There are Irish Catholics, non-Catholics, white-collar families, blue-collar families, military, South Benders, smart people, and some not-so-smart people.
The truth is that Notre Dame represents a set of beliefs. Not only are these beliefs spiritual, but they are beliefs on how one should live a good life, and how one should be a good person. They are beliefs that people should be caring and giving. In one word, it is about what is right. What is right in life, and what is right on the football field. As members of the Notre Dame family, we cheer on a football team that represents a university that we love. We cheer and hope that our football team will win, and win the right way. They will not cheat, and they will play the game the way it was meant to be played. For this reason, they will be victorious no matter what the score.
Thank you subway alumni for all that you do. This one goes out to you:
Rally sons of Notre Dame,
Sing her glory, and sound her fame
Raise her Gold and Blue,
And cheer with voices true,
Rah! Rah! For Notre Dame.
We will fight in every game
Strong of heart and true to her name.
We will ne'er forget her
And we'll cheer her ever,
Loyal to Notre Dame.
Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send the volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky,
What though the odds be great or small
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to Victory.